AN ACTOR who calls Dorset home is to explore the secret lives of Britain’s heroic army of guide dogs in a one-off primetime ITV documentary.

Martin Clunes, who lives on a farm near Beaminster, will present A Dog Called Laura this evening, Thursday, October 4, at 9pm.

The dog loving-actor was inspired to make the documentary after hearing a podcast story of a blind woman whose life had been changed by her guide dog, but who now faces the daunting task of finding a new dog.

The documentary will feature scenes filmed in Dorset with the Doc Martin star offering a guide dog a home for retirement. 

Jaina Mistry was a teenager when she lost her sight following a freak reaction to penicillin.

For the past decade, her ‘eyes’ have been a black Labrador cross called Laura, but now it is time for Laura to retire, allowing a younger dog to step in and steer Jaina.

Martin said: “I heard Jaina’s story and it was like having a window opened on a whole other world.

“It’s an incredibly moving world where animals are trained to do a life-changing job, and it dawned on me that most of us know virtually nothing about the secret lives of Britain’s heroic army of guide dogs.”

After nine years, safely guiding her through the mayhem of modern life, Jaina’s faithful labrador cross has just been retired from her harness, and lives with Jaina as a pet.

“At the beginning it was love at first sight,” says Jaina, a nutrition consultant.

“She gave me the confidence and freedom I thought I’d never get back, so letting her go will be the hardest part of our journey.

"Keeping Laura along with a new guide dog simply isn’t possible or practical. What will help me though will be her finding a loving family.”

Dorset Echo: Dog lover Martin Clunes Dog lover Martin Clunes (Image: ITV Plc)

When Martin heard Jaina’s story on a podcast, he called the Guide Dogs UK charity.

Soon afterwards, he arranged for Jaina and Laura to meet him at his home in Dorset, to offer Laura a new home for her retirement, with his own canine chums, Heidi, Penny, Jim and Bob Jackson. Assuming Laura takes to her new family then Jaina’s worries about Laura’s future will be over.

The film follows Jaina’s next huge challenge to find a replacement for Laura, as she visits the Guide Dogs UK’s national base in Leamington Spa, where they can breed up to 1,500 puppies a year. This is where Jaina first met Laura, and where she will meet her next guide dog.

As Jaina waits for news of her new guide dog, Martin heads out on his own into the secret world of guide dogs. 

Martin meets some of the people who have the serious and challenging responsibility of getting each dog ready for that daunting role.

Finally the film will follow Jaina with her new guide dog, and visiting Martin at his Dorset home to see how Laura is settling into life with her new family.

  • A Dog Called Laura is on ITV1 at 9pm on Thursday, October 5 and will thereafter be available on catch-up service ITVX.