Lurcher who captured the hearts of millions after a video showed him faking a limp in sympathy with his injured owner.

Window cleaner Russell Jones, from Hertfordshire, broke his ankle in a fall. After trying out his new crutches on a short walk outside he noticed that his hyperactive lurcher Billy had begun limping too.

Concerned, the 51-year-old forked out almost £300 on vet bills including two consultations, leg and paw X-rays and painkillers in a bid to get to the bottom of Billy’s mysterious condition.

But vets could find nothing wrong with the canine and told the family there was nothing they could do. It was only once the family returned home and let Billy play in the garden that he began racing around and his limp disappeared. It only then became apparent that their pet was imitating his injured owner.

A video clip of Billy limping alongside Russell went viral after he shared it with a Greyhound and Lurcher Facebook group. Russell said: “Billy seemed to be able to turn his limp on and off. When I took him for a walk he limped but when Michelle did he was fine. It was such a mystery. He behaved like this for two days before we took him to the vet.

“We realised he was limping out of sympathy. He was copying me because I was hobbling along. My wife Michelle said, ‘look, I think he’s taking the mickey out of you. He’s following how you walk!’”

Sadly, Russell and Michelle lost Billy to lung cancer in February, but the award has made them feel proud. 

“For him to have been honoured so special is just incredible and keeps his memory alive. We miss him dearly but are so touched that his story has been shared with millions all over the world.”

Michelle, 49, adds: “Scientists have proved that dogs can have incredible empathy for their owners. But Billy’s empathy was on a different level, he was pretending to suffer to make Russell feel loved. I think that is so clever. Dogs are amazing.”