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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dog that goes roof, roof: How a faithful pet keeps watch over thatcher at work

By Andrew Levy

Walkies on the wild side: Axel the dog on his lofty perch beside owner Richard Haughton

As a one-man dog, Axel the labrador cross always follows his master’s lead.

So when thatcher Richard Haughton takes to the ladder, Axel does too.

Passing motorists can hardly believe their eyes when they spot a hefty black dog perched on the roof supervising Mr Haughton and his team.

Going up: Mr Haughton gives Axel a reassuring push, left, before shouldering the burden on the way down

As the old joke goes, he loves work – he can watch it all day. And in between there are breaks for food or snacks from clients.

When it is time to go home, Axel – who was first taken on to a roof at seven weeks old and has not missed a single job in the five years since – hitches a lift down on Mr Haughton’s shoulders.

‘He comes everywhere with me and is perfectly happy to sit and watch us at work,’ said the father of two from Witton, near North Walsham, Norfolk.

‘When he was a pup we had to carry him up the ladder but he soon learned how to climb the rungs himself. You just have to be behind him so he has the confidence to get up.

One man and his dog: The pair silhouetted high on the pub roof

Mr Haughton was given Axel when he was a puppy by a relative who could no longer look after him as he was doing shift work

Axel the labrador spends up to five hours a day perched on rooftops so he can watch his owner, thatcher Richard Haughton, at work

‘Once he is on the ridge, he just sits or lies down and keeps an eye on us. Sometimes he also has a little wander around. He would much rather be there than sitting in the back of the van.

‘He is very agile and he has never fallen off. He certainly is not frightened in the slightest about heights. It doesn’t worry him at all.’

The dog rarely gets wet as Mr Haughton and his colleagues, Leyton Rutherford and Charles Tedder, stop working when it is raining heavily.

The only other time he comes down during working hours is in hot weather. Then he will sit in a shady spot on the ground or go inside the client’s house if invited.

The clever pooch has learned how to climb a ladder to join Mr Haughton, 33, as he lays new thatch on country cottages all over Norfolk

Apart from his labrador ancestry, Axel is also part Newfoundland and part rottweiler. ‘He weighs seven and a half stone, so he is quite heavy,’ added Mr Haughton.

‘But he is very good at balancing and he happily jumps on my shoulders so I can carry him down when we have a break or finish for the day.’

Mr Haughton, who has been in the trade since 16 and runs Broadland Thatchers, said: ‘Customers always want to know where he is when we turn up and nobody has ever questioned what he does. He’s a very loyal old boy.’

Axel can currently be seen on the roof of a pub which is being rethatched in Scottow, near North Walsham. Mr Haughton said: ‘A lot of people are doing a double take as they drive past and see Axel sitting on the roof. We are used to motorists pulling over and taking photographs of him.’

He added that no one had ever raised concerns about carrying a heavy dog down from a roof.

‘There’s never been a problem. We don’t have a lot to do with health and safety.’

'He weighs seven a half stone, so he is quite heavy, but he is very good at balancing and he happily jumps on my shoulders so I can carry him down when we have a break or finish for the day,' said Mr Haughton

Axel who is a cross between a Newfoundland, a Labrador and a Rottweiler, went up on his first roof when he was just seven weeks old. Mr Haughton said Axel had been attracting a lot of interest on his current job, re-thatching the former Three Horseshoes pub in Scottow near North Walsham

The clambering canine balances patiently on the apex of the roof and surveys the local scenery until it is time to go home and he is carried down the ladder on his owner's shoulders



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