It may be obvious by now that I am rather keen on dogs - well, most dogs, that is. So I want to tell you about Barney, a collie cross, who works for the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service. (Click here to see a picture of him and his owner, Kerry Burns (yes, that really is her name; how appropriate!). Barney wears special little boots so he can safely tread through the dangerous remains of fire damaged building sniffing out for signs of arson. He can identify 12 different flammable liquids and is a real specialist: there are only 16 other fire dogs working in the whole of the UK. Since qualifying in 2006, Barney has sniffed out 286 fire scenes. Dogs have a far superior sense of smell than electronic equipment, so Barney is invaluable. His other job is as a 'fire prevention ambassador' when schoolchildren visit his fire station.
Barney's success is down to highly skilled training. His drive and determination means he can work at fire scenes not readily accessible to human fire investigators. Now eight, Barney is soon to retire gracefully and relax as Kerry's much loved pet. Knowing collies, he likes his work. So I wonder if he's really looking forward to hanging up his boots.
So, there you go, never underestimate a collie. Which is worth pointing out, given one plays a really important role in my book Sandman.