Dog-loving former teachers Syd and Liz Moyle found the perfect way to fill their retirement by becoming foster carers for national Sheffield-based charity Support Dogs.

Ten years the on the couple from Rotherham have been named Support Dogs’ Volunteers of the Year, to add to their previous Foster Carers of the Year Award five years ago.

Support Dogs trains life-changing assistance dogs for people with autism, epilepsy and physical disability.

As retired teachers – Liz taught English and Syd was a science teacher and youth and community worker – the couple knew how to ensure their dogs had the best education possible, and over the years they have fostered more than 20 pooches.

“We have always been dog-lovers and had border collies for 30 years but our previous dog had just died and we didn’t want the commitment of looking after another one full-time,” say Liz, aged 68.

“So becoming foster carers for a succession of lovely – largely well-trained - dogs made perfect sense.”

They came across Support Dogs during a charity awareness day at Magna, and at first offered to provide emergency care for dogs in need of short-term care. But they ended up taking dozens of trainee dogs for anything for overnight to three month stays, forming special bonds with a number of their four-legged charges, and following their subsequent careers as qualified assistance dogs

They included Ufer, an enormous black Labrador; Barney, a seizure alert dog in Doncaster whom they continued to care for after the client had died; Willow/Star, who became a gentle autism assistance dog for Sheffield youngster Sam Mills – sponsored by The Star – and disability assistance dog Nelson whose client Brenda, now 80,  also lives in Sheffield. Nelson remains their favourite and they still look after him when Brenda has hospital appointments.

Syd and Liz also branched out into other forms of support for the charity, fundraising at the annual Bark in the Park and other events, and shaking tins and buckets at supermarket collections. They’ve also had celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries where they have asked for donations to Support Dogs. Their attitude is summed up by Syd, 74, when he says: “If we’re available, we’ll do it.”

The couple are also ambassadors for Support Dogs. “We always carry leaflets, the charity’s magazine Aura, water and a lead in the boot of our car in case anyone wants to know about Support Dogs,” adds Liz. “When we take the dogs out for walks in Canklow Woods lots of people know us and that we’re volunteers for the charity - we’re always trying to spread the word.

“We love volunteering for Support Dogs – we’ve had so many dogs to love over the years, and it’s a small charity that is so deserving of support.”

Danny Anderson, fundraising manager at Support Dogs says: “We rely very much on stalwarts like Syd and Liz to carry out our life-changingwork; they are real stars for the charity.”