Jill Doran has been shopping at our Golborne store since she was a child – she’s been friends with some of our colleagues since she was at school – and now they’re supporting her as she trains her assistance dog Paddy to help her with her shopping.
Jill, who's had both legs amputated from above the knee, brings Paddy to the store every week and he’s being trained to pick items off the shelves, empty the basket and even pull the bank card from the machine before taking the receipt!
Jill said: “I've been coming here since it first opened – I used to come here with my mum. It's our local store. I know it's not a corner shop, but it's like one to us. Everyone in the store is so friendly, helpful and approachable. They're great in there – that's why I go there.”
Colleagues and customers are in awe of the 18-month-old Labrador who is always by Jill's side and ready to help in anyway he can.
The store’s community champion Cheryl Gillon has known Jill for 26 years and says Paddy’s "simply incredible".
She said: "All I can say is wow! I can't believe the things Paddy can do.”
Jill, who's 57 and uses a wheelchair to get around, got Paddy as a pet was he was 12 weeks old.
He's being trained as an assistance dog by the charity Dog A.I.D (Assistance in Disability) and one of their volunteers, Sharon Lawrence, is always on hand to give tips and advice.
Jill said: "With training it is all about very tiny steps, giving him rewards. It's called shaping – it's building things up slowly, but it works. He is learning all the time.
"To me Paddy is a complete one-off – I would be so lost without him.
"When I go shopping to Asda, Paddy picks up the items off the shelves that I can't get; he takes things out of the basket and places them on my knees so I can put on the conveyor belt; he put his paws on the till and pulls out my debit card from the card reader and also takes the receipt!
"He has given me so much confidence. Before Paddy I would think people would be looking at me in my wheelchair, but now I feel they are looking at Paddy rather than me and saying what a clever dog he is.
"If I can't pick anything up I will just point to it and Paddy will fetch it for me. If the phone rings he will get it and bring it to me, if I ask for the remote control he will look around for it and them bring it to me. Just the other day, my bracelet must have come loose and it fell off. Paddy realised, picked it up and gave it to me. The only thing I've not taught him to do yet is the ironing!"
Jill, who suffers from the neurological disease Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome, has been shopping at the store since it opened and really appreciates all the help colleagues offer.
She said: "I know a lot of the colleagues there from school – we are all northerners so we are are aways friendly!
"Recently, when I couldn't reach something a very kind colleague helped get it for me, then helped me through the till and took my bag to the car. I later found out he was one of the managers. That's the sort of service you get."
Cheryl says everyone at the store is amazed by how much Paddy is able to do when Jill brings him in.
She said: "I have such admiration for training dogs such as Paddy. I just didn't realise all the things they can do. I've not seen anything like it.
"While other dogs would probably rip something apart if its dropped on the floor, Paddy just picks it up and passes it to Jill. I've got my own black Labrador Jake who is just so different to Paddy!"
"Jill herself is such an inspiration and very independent. I've known her for 26 years and nothing gets her down. Being with Paddy makes her more confident when she comes shopping.
"All my colleagues and customers love seeing Jill and Paddy in store. All they want to do is go and give him a pat, but they realise he is working and has a job to do!"
She said colleagues were always around to help Jill and Paddy if needed, especially if Jill needed items which were hard to reach.
The store's deputy manager Andrew Baines said it was always a pleasure to have Jill and Paddy in the store.
He said: "It’s great to hear what an impact Paddy having on her life and the help he provides. It’s great that we can help to assist and support her. We always we look forward to seeing Jill and Paddy. She is a lovely customer and friendly with a lot of our colleagues."