The Kennel Club has announced the five hero dogs that will compete in the public vote for the prestigious Friends for Life award at Crufts 2019. They are:
• A Labrador Retriever who has spent years on the front line with his owner being an Arms and Explosives dog and protecting service personnel at war
• A rescue Greyhound who was saved when its racing career was over and who now goes on to save the lives of many dogs by regularly donating blood and who has changed the lives of the family that took him on
• A Dogs for Good Golden Retriever who has transformed the life of its young owner not only in health but helping them feel part of society
• A cross breed dog that has naturally taken on being a support to its owner helping them overcome serious illness at a very young age and giving them the support to carry on
• A German Shepherd Police dog who saved his owners life and continues to work with his owner in changing the law for service dogs
The annual Friends for Life competition at Crufts celebrates the unique relationship people have with their dogs, the important role man’s best friend plays throughout our lives and the support they give us in the face of adversity.
Judges from the Kennel Club, the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation, have selected five inspiring finalists to go forward for the public vote, with the winner being announced in the Resorts World Arena at the Birmingham NEC on the final day of Crufts, the world’s greatest dog show, on Sunday 10th March. These five dog heroes are just some of the dogs having their day at Crufts and are celebrated at the show for the ways that they enrich our lives.
The finalists for 2019 are:
Extraordinary Life of a Working Dog
Lance the Labrador Retriever and Pte Lee Hampson from Rutland
Lance is an Arms and Explosives Search dog. He was trained at the height of military operations in Afghanistan, performing lifesaving tasks on a daily basis. The minute Lee worked with Lance he knew he was the dog for him. Lance and Lee clicked very quickly and were sent away on exercise to many different places which really cemented their bond. They were then sent to Afghanistan where their job was to look for explosive devices and weapons in vehicles.
In Feb 2016, Lee accepted a posting to Cyprus but had a fight to get Lance with him as it was felt that Lance was too good not to be on the frontline. Thankfully they continued as a team working together. Lance is now nine and was retired at Christmas. Lee has rehomed Lance with his family and now the only work Lance has to do is play with his toys all day!
Lee says: “Lance looked after me in Afghanistan and helped lots of people get home safe to their families - now it’s my turn to look after him. He is my best friend.”
Breed Rescue Dog of the Year
Ringo the Greyhound and Sarah Candy from Luton.
Ringo was rescued by the Greyhound Trust after being retired at three years old from racing. Originally from Ireland, Ringo was a hare coarser who was brought over to the UK and then taken on by the Greyhound Trust when he was no longer wanted, which is where Sarah adopted him from. Since Ringo has been retired, he has been a regular blood donor at the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire and has saved the lives of many dogs, as well as a cat!
Ringo has also changed Sarah’s life around, making her fitter and being a support to her two daughters helping to keep them calm throughout their GCSEs and A levels. Sarah says: ‘When I saw him on the Greyhound Trust Facebook site it was love at first sight. Ringo has changed all our lives as well as saving countless dogs’ lives with the blood he donates. He is never happier than when he is at home chilling on our sofa with our three cats - he is such a loving, wonderful dog.”Hero Assistance Dog
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Emma the Golden Retriever and Milli Gunn from Essex.
Steve is father to three beautiful children and it was the arrival of his third child, Milli, which set him on a life-changing journey.
Milli, now seven, was born with Down’s syndrome which was an enormous shock to the family. At four weeks old, Milli developed bronchiolitis and was taken into intensive care where it was discovered she had a hole in her heart that spanned all four chambers and required open heart surgery which she had at four months of age at Great Ormond Street hospital. She also had a second open heart surgery at the age of five where it was discovered she had pulmonary hypertension.
Life has become more and more difficult for Milli as she struggles with her heart condition and other symptoms associated with Down’s syndrome, such as low muscle tone In addition, Milli also suffers from anxiety. In trying to find help, Steve came across the charity Dogs for Good, and even though at the beginning Milli was scared of dogs, working with the charity helped her overcome this and she was paired with Emma the Golden Retriever.
Emma has fitted in at home beautifully with Milli. She helps with certain tasks such as picking up dropped items and retrieving her medicated drinks. Recently, Emma noticed that Milli was getting short of breath during a play session so she put her head on Milli’s lap, calming her down and giving her the space to get her breathing back under control. It is not only Milli’s health that Emma has helped, it is also her confidence and overall happiness. As soon as Milli gets home from school she piles in for a big cuddle with Emma, and with Emma by her side Milli has the confidence to interact with people and has increased her friendship circle as well. Milli’s father, Steve says: “Emma’s turned a light on for Milli and given her the confidence to shine as brightly out in the wider world as she does at home.”
Snoopy the cross breed and Oli Gage aged five from Banbury
Snoopy was 10 weeks old when the Gage family got him and instantly he formed a bond like no other with Olli who was three years old. However it was only three months after getting Snoopy that Olli was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Olli’s mum Rebecca says: “I don’t know how my son would have coped without Snoopy by his side, Olli was isolated from his friends because of infection, but Snoopy was there and ready for whatever was needed, whether it was a cuddle or a play. Snoopy was even allowed in the hospital when Olli got really sick and knew when Olli needed him and would just lay with him. He helped Ollie learn to walk again and has been the light in such a dark time.”
Olli’s heath is still critical but with the support of Snoopy he is made stronger.
Man’s Best Friend
Finn the German Shepherd Dog and PC David Wardell from Burtingford, Hertfordshire
Retired Police Dog (RPD) Finn is a true hero dog. His horrific ordeal at being stabbed multiple times on 5th October 2016 and his fight for life are highly publicised and are the focus point of Dave’s campaign, ‘Finn’s Law’.
RPD Finn is in retirement, but continues to be absolutely devoted to Dave. Together they have done so much to promote the campaign and highlight the value of all service animals and the injustice them receive in law. RPD Finn is an ambassador not only for police dogs, but for all service animals. His heroism for unquestionably saving Dave’s life on that fateful night is legendary and now the two of them remain the best of friends, demonstrating complete loyalty, companionship, love, honour and dedication to name but a few.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Dogs play such a significant role in our lives. Every day there are dogs out there saving lives in war zones, giving confidence and independence to those with disabilities, and showing remarkable bravery and loyalty as pets.
“Friends for Life, the final of which is held on the world’s largest dog stage at Crufts, is an opportunity to celebrate these dogs that quietly go about changing people’s lives in their own unique and special way. We had some fantastic nominees this year from all over the UK so choosing just five finalists was incredibly tough. All of this year’s finalists are incredibly worthy winners, and all share a very special relationship with their pets. We would encourage people to vote for their favourite to show their support for these extraordinary dogs. Dogs are known as man’s best friend and our five finalists go to show exactly why that is.”
The winner of the Friends for Life competition will receive £5,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for the dog charity of the choice, with the other finalists receiving £1,000 for their chosen dog charity.
The public can now vote for their favourite finalist until midday on Sunday 10th March, by visiting http://www.crufts.org.uk/ffl
The winner will be revealed in the Resorts World Arena at Crufts on Sunday 10th March at 5.20pm.