When Alfie Kitson first taught his dog to pick up trash and deposit into a nearby litter bin, his main intention was to make people smile.
Alfie had found Millie the Spanish Podenco on the streets of Málaga, Spain when she was just 8 months old. The puppy had been put into a trash bag hanging from a tree branch when Alfie and his wife rescued her, and she instantly became a loving part of their family.
“We rescued her because our house felt empty without an animal,” Alfie explained. “Dogs and cats are a big part of anyone’s life that loves animals.”
One day, Alfie saw a larger dog who had been trained to pick up trash from the street. He decided to see if Millie could learn the same trick, training her with a box in his backyard that he gradually raised to the height of a trash bin.
After years of living in Spain, Alfie and his wife decided to return to Hereford, England, where they’d been born and raised. Alfie now takes Millie into the village twice a week to run errands, delighting passersby with her litter tidying skills every chance they get!
“All I have to say is ‘put that litter in the bin’ and she will pick it up and do it,” Alfie said. “Passers-by seem to love it and she always gets a little round of applause.”
During one of these visits, someone recorded Millie picking up trash and putting it into the bin, and it went viral on the internet! Millions of people saw Millie’s little trick online — including a man named Ray, who happens to be married to Alfie’s sister, Anne.
After living in Spain for two decades, Alfie had lost touch with most of his family. When Ray saw that he was living in Hereford again, Anne was eager to see her long-lost brother again.
“After I spotted him back in Hereford, we then saw the coverage on Millie and went to Ulingswick to see if we could find him,” said Ray. “After asking around the village we finally tracked him and his wife down.”
When Alfie’s granddaughter called him to say Anne and Ray were looking for him, he couldn’t believe it. He was just 8 miles away!
“My brother moved to London years back and my sister went elsewhere too – we just drifted apart,” he said of their 20-year separation. “I came back home one day and lo and behold there was my sister. She then got in touch with my brother Dave.”
Ray says there were “plenty of hugs and tears” at their reunion. “Dave and Alfie made arrangements to meet thereby completing a reunified family,” he said.
The family all agree that none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for Millie picking up litter!
“They might not have ever found me if it wasn’t for Millie and her little trick,” said Alfie. “She isn’t just part of the family, she is the family and we are glad we can show her off to others as she really is an amazing dog.”
Alfie says his meetings with Dave and Anne have been “emotional,” but they are all grateful to be reunited. They have plans to get together and make up for lost time in the new year.
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