Rochester is a big fan of costume drama! He also shares a name with a great literary character, indeed he frequently goes by the name “Mr. Rochester“! So the opportunity to visit historic houses and indeed settings for TV drama was irresistible! Highclere House near Newbury, England is the ancestral home of the Earls of Carnarvon, it’s also the real life setting for the TV series Downton Abbey.
Fans of the show will know that as well as an all-star cast of actors it also features a labrador; Pharoah in the first series, Isis in the second. The dogs make several appearances, mostly in the background loyally following the Earl of Grantham around. He walks up the path to the house in the opening credits and also has his own episode when he is locked in a shed by the wicked footman! Show dogs obviously have a different work ethic to guide dogs, according to actor Hugh Bonneville Roly (who play Isis) will only perform if bribed with a sausage!
Visiting a busy stately home is quite a challenge for a trainee guide dog. The large number of people and the unusual surroundings were going to be a test for Rochester. Fortunately he rose to the challenge extremely well. There really was quite a crowd shuffling from room to room which Rochester seemed quite happy to be part of. Fortunately most of the visitors were more interested in the house than him, which meant he could get on with his work. Assistance dogs are the only dogs allowed to visit (other than Roly!) and the staff at the house couldn’t have been more welcoming to Rochester, he was particularly pleased to meet the Earl of Carnarvon himself !
After visiting the excellent Egyptian exhibition we went to the tea room where Rochester was given a bowl of water in Highclere china! This has probably been the most testing trip out for Rochester in his training to date. As well as the crowds there were several steep staircases, lots of interesting distractions and plenty of food in the cafe. He was also required to work for a couple of hours; his longest time yet. He coped with it all commendably, so after a sleep we went for a free run on the nearby Beacon Hill.