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Lap of luxury for bequest dogs

TWO DOGS look set for a life of luxury after their late owner left them £450,000 in her will. The two collie-cross bitches, Tina and Kate are the latest canine beneficiaries of a doting owner’s bequest.

Nora Hardwell, a reclusive spinster, lived alone with the dogs at her home, a converted tennis pavilion set in four acres of lawns and semi-woodland, on the Woodborough estate near Peasedown St John, Somerset.

The former secretary died on New Year's Eve, 2002, aged 89. She had no surviving family and her "three great loves" were her dogs, poetry and gardening, said villagers.

Her devotion to her dogs was reflected in her will, which was published yesterday. Out of her £618,606 estate, she left £450,000 in trust "for the maintenance of any dog or dogs which I may own at my death for the period of 21 years from the date of my death or until the death of my last of my dogs if earlier."

The residue of her estate and any money left after the 21 years will be divided equally between four charities, including two connected with animal welfare, the Cinnamon Trust and the Animal health Trust.

Tina and Kate, aged 14 and 10, have the run of her home and are looked after by her gardener and maintenance man, Henry Escott, 74, who received £5,000 in her will.

Mr Escott said: "She was a kind old soul. She was absolutely devoted to her dogs. She used to send me out to the supermarket to get the meat for them. When she sat in her chair in the garden they would always be running about nearby. They have been a little quieter since she died."

Eric Rowley, and his wife, Susan, who own the neighbouring Woodborough Garden kennels, said Miss Hardwell always gave her dogs "the best of food". "Everything was done for them," said Mr Rowley. "She wouldn't have the house decorated in case the paint upset them."

Michael Ashbee, a surveyor, and one of the executors, said: "She treated the dogs as her children. They used to guard her and could be quite aggressive. They have now become very friendly." He added: "The dogs will be well looked after for their lifespan.
"If they have to move from the house they will go to another dog lover."

Miss Hardwell's vet in Peasedown St John, Andrew Chivers, said it was not unusual for people to include them in their will. He said: "Usually we would advise if they are very anxious and feel sufficiently strong-minded, they should have a word with their lawyer and put a codicil in their will."