Hartlepool man’s guide dog is a lifesaver after alerting owner to deadly fumes from faulty fridge

Paul Whiting and his golden Labrador retriever Iain are pictured next to a replacement fridge.
Paul Whiting and his golden Labrador retriever Iain are pictured next to a replacement fridge.

A hero guide dog saved his owner and grandson’s lives by alerting him to toxic fumes from a faulty fridge before it could have turned fatal.

Paul Whiting’s faithful golden Labrador retriever cross, called Iain, sprang into action as the kitchen began to fill with noxious gases.

He really is my hero, as well as my best friend, and we will always be eternally grateful to him

Paul Whiting

Guide Dogs for the Blind have described it as a “truly amazing story” and said Iain “certainly went above and beyond the call of duty”.

Paul, whose six-year-old grandson Leon was staying over and was asleep, was completely unaware anything was wrong until Iain, whose sense of smell is stronger, started barking.

On going downstairs to investigate, the 53-year-old was immediately overcome by a wave of strong fumes.

Paul, of Bishop Cuthbert, Hartlepool, said: “My wife Barbara was out for the evening and all of a sudden Iain started barking.

“I knew something was wrong as guide dogs are discouraged from barking so it was very unusual for him to behave in this way,

“I went downstairs, opened the kitchen door and got the full whack of the fumes. Instantly my eyes were burning and my nose and throat started feeling sore, I couldn’t breathe.”

It later emerged that toxic fumes from the oil of a faulty compressor on the family’s seven-year-old fridge was to blame.

Paul, whose eyesight has worsened over time due to an inherited genetic condition, managed to open some windows and checked that Leon, who slept through the drama, was alright.

Barbara returned home shortly afterwards but the fumes triggered an asthma attack in her.

She and Paul went to A&E at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton to be checked over.

Paul, who is still suffering the after effects of the fumes, said things would have been much worse if it had not been for Iain, his constant companion for about four years.

He said: “If it hadn’t been for him it would have been terrible. Basically, he saved our lives. He really is my hero, as well as my best friend, and we will always be eternally grateful to him.”

Paul’s vision is limited to around 15ft straight ahead, but he cannot make out fine detail. Iain is his third dog, trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, since his eyesight started to fail when he was in his early 20s.

Guide Dogs for the Blind engagement officer, Linda Oliver, from the Newcastle Mobility Team, said: “This is truly an amazing story. Guide dogs are expertly trained to lead their owner around obstacles, identify kerbs and spot hazards.

“What people witness on the street is the incredible nature of the trusting relationship between guide dog and owner. It is estimated that there are 2,867 blind or partially sighted people in Hartlepool.

“Guide dog Iain certainly went above and beyond the call of duty.”