A labrador called Lenny is proving he really is man’s best friend – after being specially trained to look after dementia sufferer Jon King.

The retired university lecturer has formed an unbreakable bond with the four-year-old canine after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three-and-a-half years ago.

As well as keeping the 76-year-old active, Lenny has been trained to remind him when to take his medication and generally help ease the frustration the debilitating illness can have on everyday life.

Mr King’s wife Jeannette, 73, his main carer, admitted the thought of having a dog around the house filled her with “trepidation”.

But she said Lenny has given both her and her husband, who had most of his tongue removed after developing oral cancer in 1995, “a whole new life”. She added: “Now we can’t imagine life without Lenny. He’s wonderful – the best dog in the world

“Jon’s still in the relatively early stages [of the illness] but there is a lot of frustration. He’s not able to do practical things. For example, he used to do a lot of cooking but he finds it very difficult to get the sequence of things right.

“As well as practical support, Lenny’s opened up a whole new world for us just when we felt our lives were closing in on us. To put it simply, he’s made us happy.”

Lenny, who stays with the couple in Aberdeen, has been trained to follow basic commands and respond to an alarm that signals for him to retrieve a medicine pouch and give it to Mr King to remind him to take it.

Wearing a special green jacket to identify him as an assistance dog, he can go anywhere a guide dog can, giving the couple confidence to get out and about for walks, shopping or to a cafe. 

Lenny can also shut doors and, when the time comes, he will help take off items of clothing to aid Mr King as the incurable illness progresses. Mrs King said the clever canine – one of only 11 specially trained dementia dogs in Scotland – has brought the couple closer together. She said: “What he has done for us is not an easy thing to quantify. He’s given us something new to share and that’s very important. 

“Jon never liked walking. If I had, in the past, said we should go for a walk he would have thought I was mad. But now he likes walking with Lenny, although he’s not always able to do it.

“It’s given him motivation to do things he would otherwise not have done. He’s given us a whole new lease of life.”

Describing his companion, Mr King, added: “Lenny is great company, particularly if I’m feeling down. He happily comes with us to shops and cafes and will shake paws with anyone. He loves walks in the park or on the beach.” 

Mrs King hopes that, by having Lenny, it will prolong the time her husband can stay at home with her.

She said: “Having a dog isn’t a miracle cure but it certainly makes the symptoms easier to cope with. He reduces tension just by being there. Since we’ve had Lenny, it’s given us both a bit more confidence.”

Lenny has been trained as part of a collaboration between Alzheimer’s Scotland and Dogs For Good. Each dog costs about £25,000 to train, with part of Lenny’s training done at HMP Castle Huntly, near Dundee.

Mrs King said the prisoner who helped to train Lenny has now been discharged and is working as a dog trainer.  

She added: “It is an important project and I feel incredibly lucky that we have been given Lenny. I just hope that lots of other people can benefit from it. 

“When someone you love is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the first thing you think of isn’t usually getting a dog. But apart from the practical support, he’s opened up our social circle and we’ve met so many people.”