An autism assistance dog which has completely changed the life of a 13 year-old boy and given him the courage to leave his house and face a world he finds incredibly hard; a guide dog which has given his owner reason to live and has motivated him to train for the England blind football team after he lost his sight as a result of juvenile arthritis; a Bull Terrier that saved the life of his owner, who has MS, after she collapsed unconscious; and a military dog which sniffs out explosives who is currently on his fourth operational tour in Afghanistan with the British Army, saving lives on the front line. These are the four dogs that have been selected as finalists for the Crufts dog hero competition, Eukanuba Friends for Life.
The annual Eukanuba Friends for Life competition celebrates the unique relationship people have with their dogs, the important role man’s best friend plays throughout our lives and support they give us in the face of adversity.
Judges from the Kennel Club, the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation and Eukanuba, experts in premium pet nutrition, have selected four inspiring finalists to go forward for the public vote, with the winner being announced in the Genting Arena at the Birmingham NEC on the final day of Crufts, the world’s largest dog show, on Sunday 12th March. These four dog heroes are just some of the dogs celebrated at the show for the ways that they enrich our lives.
The finalists for 2017 are:
- Caddie, the Labrador Retriever assistance dog, and his 13 year old owner Joel Sayer, from Newquay in Cornwall - Joel has had a difficult childhood. He had sleep apnoea for the first two years of his life, was then diagnosed with autism, with a sensory disorder and a speech and language impediment. Before Joel was partnered with Caddie by assistance dog charity Dogs for Good he could not leave the house, speak to people or live a normal life. Now Caddie helps Joel to cope with a life that he finds incredibly hard and calms him in times of heightened stress, aids his communication and has brought support not only to Joel but his whole family. Joel’s mother Janet Sayer has said that she burst into tears one day when she was out with Joel and Caddie because she caught sight of her reflection in a shop window and realised that with Caddie by Joel’s side she was, for the first time, able to take her eyes off of Joel for a brief moment and do something that other people take for granted. Caddie is the finalist for the Giving the Best Start in Life category, which recognises dogs that support and impact the lives of children.
- Hudson, the Labrador Retriever guide dog, and owner Nathan Edge, 22, from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire – Nathan was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at six years old and the inflammation went to the back of his eyes, resulting in his sight gradually deteriorating until he got Hudson when he was 19. A few months later he lost his sight completely, overnight. To go from being partially sighted to completely losing his sight, Nathan was ready to give up on life. Nathan realised that the thing that would get him through this tough time was Hudson, who was at his side throughout, supporting him when he needed it the most. Nathan is now training to be in the England blind football team, which Nathan says would not have been possible without Hudson. Hudson is the finalist for the Giving Longevity Through Assistance category, for assistance dogs that support their owners throughout the years.
- Bowser, the Bull Terrier, and owner Sally Deegan, 26, from Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire – Sally was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with left her depressed, housebound and feeling hopeless. Sally and her husband decided to rescue a dog from Battersea Dogs and Cat’s Home at Brands Hatch and adopted Bower because of his big character. Three months after adopting Bowser, Sally relapsed and had passed out on the sofa. Bowser attracted the attention of Sally’s husband who was outside in the garden who came inside to find Sally unconscious. She was then rushed to hospital. This was the first time Bowser saved Sally’s life. Bowser helps Sally with the physical issues surrounding MS but also with the mental and emotional strain of the condition, and gave her the desire to engage with people and the world again. Bowser is the finalist for the A Life of Friendship category, which celebrates man’s best friend throughout the years, a partner that has seen their owner through the hardest times as well as the happiest.
- Charlie the military dog, with the British Army - Charlie is an active military working dog, and has completed three operational tours and is currently deployed on a fourth in Afghanistan. Charlie works in support of Infantry units to provide a weapons, ammunition and explosive search capability. Charlie played a key role in allowing the safe closure of the British base, Camp Bastion, and was one of the last five military working dogs to depart Helmand Province when the camp finally closed in 2014. He protects those around him by carrying out operational service in an often dangerous, and always austere, environment. He is deployed with his handler at very short notice to support Counter Arms Proliferation within the Mediterranean. Adapting to life at sea very quickly in an unusual environment, Charlie has already proved his worth to the Royal Marines; providing an additional level of assurance to the operation. Charlie is at the very frontline of protecting our national security. Most recently he has been trained and prepared for high readiness contingency operations and is ready to fly anywhere in the world to carry out search tasks. He has also supported UK based operations including Cabinet level VIP venue searches prior to official events. Charlie is the finalist for the Extraordinary Life of a Working Dog category, for dogs who have shown extraordinary qualities through working, including in the army, police force, RAF, airport, search and rescue.
Kellie Ceccarelli, Veterinary Training Manager at Eukanuba said: “Eukanuba Friends For Life showcases the impact that dogs can make on our life, and we believe we should make a lifelong impact on theirs by providing them with advance nutrition and appropriate care to help dogs live a long healthy and active life.
“We had some fantastic nominees this year from all over the UK so choosing just four 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 now encourage people to vote for their favourite to show their support to these extraordinary dogs and we are excited to see who will be named this year’s winner of Eukanuba Friends for Life.”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Dogs play 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.
“Eukanuba Friends for Life is an opportunity to celebrate these dogs that quietly go about changing people’s lives in their own unique and special way.
“Dogs are known as man’s best friend and our four finalists go to show exactly why that is.”
The winner of the Eukanuba 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 12th March.
The winner will be revealed in the Genting Arena at Crufts on Sunday 12th March.
For journalists who would like further press information, images or interview requests, please contact our press office.
Videos for each of the finalists can be embedded from the below links. Contact the press office for raw files.
Joel and Caddie https://youtu.be/43b0S5bGSbk
Nathan and Hudson https://youtu.be/DFTgK3899T0
Sally and Bowser https://youtu.be/yawP1hyPEw4
Bobby and Charlie https://youtu.be/5TQCNcsN9M4