Homeless Northampton woman wins prestigious Crufts rosettes with three of her dogs
A former bus driver from Northampton who became unemployed after losing her eyesight has won five rosettes at Crufts with three of her dogs.
Linda McFarlane, 40, is celebrating after bagging five awards at Crufts with her two Löwchens Ashley and Trouble as well as Chinese Crested pooch, Trixie.
Linda - who is the owner of four dogs - now lives with two of her pets at Oasis House after she became evicted from her home in Weedon and found herself living in a tent in Swan Valley for eight weeks.
The former bus driver said her dogs have kept her spirits up during the hardest times of her life: "They are the only thing that keep me alive now," she said.
And talking about her time sleeping rough she said: "I was quite lucky - I was at Swan Valley and there was a farm field. I was in the field, just in the edge of the trees, and he [the farmer] would come along every morning and drop me a pint of milk, a bucket of fresh water and take my rubbish bag away and leave me a fresh bin bag.
"Every morning at about 6 o’clock I’d hear his tractor come along and drop my stuff off, pick my bin bag up and go. He was really really good, I couldn’t have wished for a better farmer, he was fantastic."
Five-year-old Ashley won gold in The Kennel Club's Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme Class for his breed and bagged silver in the Limit Class.
Then 13-month-old Trouble came first in the Post Graduate Class for his breed and came second in The Kennel Club's Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme Class, placing behind Ashley.
Three-year-old Chinese Crested Trixie came second in The Kennel Club's Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme Class for her breed.
Linda has been competing with dogs for 31 years and fell in love with it when she was a child as her mum would take her along to competitions where they would stay overnight.
She remembers when her five-year-old Ashley was mischievous as a youngster: "He was so naughty as a pup - he actually climbed out of the caravan window and chased up the showground because we left him behind.
“He ate the caravan door. He ate the awning to get out - he was a very very naughty puppy."
Ashley - who was trained in Ireland for 18 months to support Linda with her autism and visual impairment - is also trained as a therapy dog and helps children read in special educational needs schools.
Linda added: "When I go out shopping he has a little blue visual jacket on and he comes into the shops and places like McDonalds, ferries and aeroplanes - he goes everywhere with me.
"He was trained as a therapy dog where he would go into special needs schools and kids would read to him but because of my confidence, I lack confidence in taking him, and I stop going [but he still] absolutely loves it.
"You show him someone in a wheelchair and his tail and head come up and he’s like ‘oh mum let me go and see them’ he really loves people in wheelchairs.”