WHEN a Warrington couple contracted coronavirus during lockdown, little did they know that an elderly rescue dog would be the one to make them smile again.

Rachael Blunden and Ben Rigby, 24 and 25, adopted Maple in June and said they owe so much to their 'special little dog'.

The pair, from Great Sankey, have been together for five years and were looking forward to the next chapter of their lives together when disaster struck.

Rachael explained: "We felt unwell during the evening of Easter Sunday and decided to start isolating just in case, as I had started to get a slight cough.

"As Ben is a physiotherapist, he was tested that week and came back positive.

"He was unwell for a few days but I felt very unwell for over a week.

"I started getting chest pains so we decided to ring 111, and due to my extensive medical history, which includes a genetic heart condition and asthma, they sent an ambulance.

"Luckily, after being checked out at the hospital they sent me home that evening and recommended resting up, but it was quite a scare for everyone I think.

"They didn’t test me there as they said they could only do that if I was staying in, but they felt very certain I had the virus considering Ben's positive test and my symptoms.

"We had to isolate for four weeks as Ben kept testing positive, so it was a very long and lonely time for us."

The couple had always planned on adopting a dog together, and during isolation, they decided that as soon as they were well they would find a furry friend to join their family.

"We searched all of the websites twice a day, and I came across Maple and fell in love straight away," Rachael recalled.

Warrington Guardian:

"We put an enquiry in and she came home to us from Dogs Trust Manchester four days later.

"She’s 11 years old and apparently had the same owner her whole life, so we can understand why being at the centre was so hard for her.

"She’s really settling in now and everyone who meets her loves her!

"She adores cuddles and belly rubs, will do anything for some chicken and goes mad for a squeaky toy.

"Since Maple came home two months ago we have definitely felt so much happier and proud to have our little family.

"She has been a real comfort to us as our wedding on July 4 was postponed, and we have felt ever so disappointed, like many others.

"We think Maple has sensed our sadness and has been ready to jump into our laps and give us kisses and cuddles at any opportunity!

"It has been a very worrying and sad time for us overall, and I don’t think we’d have much to smile about if we hadn’t got our lovely Maple.

"She’s also brought a lot of joy to our families who have loved seeing her in the garden for visits - she can woo pretty much anyone with her big eyes and nudges for cuddles!

"She’s a very special little dog and we’re so happy to be able to tell her story."

Rachael and Ben are now hoping to get married in May.

They will soon be taking Maple on her first family holiday to Wales in September.