A Northamptonshire fire dog has been crowned as Sport Relief’s Top Dog.
Maysie, a five-year-old black labrador, was part of the triumphant team in the final, which was shown this evening as part of the BBC’s charity extravaganza.
She and her owner and handler Ian Walpole, from Orlingbury, have now been invited to take pride of place at the Sport Relief Mile at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on Sunday.
Sport Relief’s Top Dog has showcased the efforts of working dogs from around the country.
Each team is made up of a celebrity and their pet dog, a professional dog and its handler and a pet with its owner.
They compete in a series of challenges then a timed relay. Teams with the best times qualify for the next round.
Maysie and Ian – who has worked for the fire and rescue service for 25 years, have been in a team with Olympic badminton star Gail Emms in the programme.
Maysie sniffs out traces of ignitable liquid left at the scene of a deliberate blaze or at a suspect’s home, and is even able to alert officers to petrol that might have been washed off a suspect’s hands and down the sink.
Ian said: “It is an opportunity to show the work the fire dogs do, have a bit of fun and help raise money for Sport Relief.
“There are only 15 to 20 fire dogs in the country – a lot of people haven’t heard of dogs working in the fire service.”
As well as giving him the opportunity to show off Maysie’s work, Ian said appearing on the show had been one of the best experiences he had had with her.
He said: “It is all focused on the work of the dog and they treated us all so well, made us feel comfortable and relaxed.”
Maysie has been working since she turned one, and her mother, Millie, was the first fire dog to work for the Northamptonshire force. Millie is due to be retired later this year.
Ian added: “Maysie has no on-off switch. She wants to work the whole time.
“During the filming, at lunchtime, we located all of their petrol cans. She is a fantastic dog.”
Ian and Maysie took part in the final on BBC Two at 6.30pm this evening (Friday), having won their heat, which was broadcast earlier this month, and their semi-final on Thursday night.