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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Top award for 'amazing' guide dog
Nicola Cockburn and her guide dog, Vale
Nicola Cockburn has been guided by golden retriever Vale for eight years
A guide dog from Llandudno has won an award for "outstanding loyalty and devotion" to her owner.

Nicola Cockburn's golden retriever, Vale, won the Exceptional Work Guide Dog category at an awards ceremony at the Kennel Club in London.

Vale mastered routes around several new cities while Miss Cockburn, 27, toured with theatre company Untitled Projects.

The pair were praised at the Guide Dogs for the Blind awards for having an "extraordinary partnership".

Miss Cockburn said nine-year-old Vale coped very well when travelling away from home and was always willing to adapt to a new environment.

I was really pleased that I was able to nominate Vale because she worked so hard
Nicola Cockburn

The actress was performing in a play called Blindsight, which toured Manchester, Glasgow, Stirling and Aberdeen.

But Miss Cockburn said her guide dog quickly found her way from hotels to theatres and around the local shops, bus stops and parks.

She told the BBC News website: "I was really pleased that I was able to nominate Vale because she worked so hard.

"She learnt 10 routes in about 10 weeks when we were on tour.

'Special achievements'

"Once we come home she remembers all of our old routes, including back to college when we haven't been for three months - she's amazing."

The former Manchester Metropolitan student, who has been blind since birth, now wants to become a journalist and starts work in a few weeks as a trainee on Llandudno's Daily Post.

Guide Dogs chief executive Bridget Warr said: "Every guide dog is a winner to their owner, giving them vital independence and freedom.

"However, we wanted to go one step further and recognise some truly special achievements. Nicola and Vale have done just that - they are an extraordinary partnership."

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