Five 'life-changing' dogs shortlisted for top hero award at Crufts
A rescue Border Terrier, a working Border Collie and a "heroic" Labrador Retriever who helps his owner complete over a hundred daily tasks are among the finalists for Crufts' 2018 Friends For Life award.
A total of five furry helpers, including a hearing assistance Cocker-Spaniel/Poodle cross called Waffle and an ultra-loving Shih Tzu named Buttons are up for the prestigious annual prize which honours dogs who play a leading role in helping people battle adversity.
Vanessa Holbrow, 47, from Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, said her re-homed Border Terrier, Sir Jack Spratticus, has "saved her life" after helping her to manage complex mental health problems.
"He's had the most profound impact on my life," she said.
"Just owning him saved my life in many respects, and then we found this organisation last year, Canine Generated Independence, and he is now training to be my assistance dog."
Once neglected, scared and aggressive, Sir Jack, who was entered for the award's Breed Rescue category, now proudly helps Ms Holbrow in her work promoting awareness and raising money for others suffering with a variety of mental health issues - and has transformed into a camera-loving companion.
"I always say he's the David Beckham of Border Terriers," she said.
"He loves to pose - he's just such a character."
Clare Syvertsen, 29, from Northolt in north west London, said her Labrador/Golden Retriever cross, Griffin, has completely transformed her ability to be independent in performing routine tasks.
Ms Syvertsen, a wheelchair user who suffers from the rare connective tissue disorder, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, relies on Griffin to assist her with over 100 physical chores, from opening doors, to loading and unloading the washing machine and flushing the toilet.
"He's opened a whole new world for me," she said.
"I couldn't be without him. I'm more independent, I can go out on my own, I can start doing all sorts of different things that I want to do, without the need of a carer."
Sir Jack and Griffin join 14-year-old Sarah Mohammadi's hearing assistance Cocker Spaniel/Poodle cross Waffle, 39-year-old Gayle Wilde's Lanarkshire-based search and rescue Border Collie, Taz, and 19-year-old Hannah Gates' emotionally-supportive Shih Tzu, Buttons, for a chance to be crowned overall winner of the Friends For Life Prize.
Selected from over 300 applicants by judges at Crufts' governing body, The Kennel Club, each of the finalists have been chosen from five distinct categories before being entered for an all-important public vote to name the top dog at an awards ceremony next month.
The winner will receive £5,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for the dog charity of their choice, and other finalists will also receive £1,000 towards their own canine charities.
Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko said: "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."
Members of the public can vote for the top prize winner at www.crufts.org.uk/friendsforlife, before the results are announced at Crufts, in the Genting Arena in Birmingham on Sunday, March 11.