The British public has voted Brock, an Australian Shepherd dog owned by Lou Holmes, from Bracknell, Berkshire, as the Crufts Friends for Life champion and Britain’s ultimate four-legged hero. The proud winners were presented with their trophy in the Crufts main Arena, at the Birmingham NEC tonight (Sunday 8th March).
The public have ben voting all week for the story that moved them the most and decided that Lou and Brock were the most deserving pair. Brock is a lowland search and rescue dog who has changed or saved countless live through air scenting and trailing work that can detect where a missing person was last located. Brock found the body of government scientist Dr David Kelly and helped to bring closure for the family.
Speaking about her proud moment, Lou Holmes, said: “I was shocked but so proud to have won the Friends for Life award. This is a huge moment for all lowland search and rescue dogs and I am so pleased that the amazing work that they do has been recognised at such a prestigious event as Crufts.
“Brock is such a lovely dog, he does so much good and I am so proud that people have recognised this and taken the effort to vote for him.”
The competition, annually presented by the Kennel Club, follows six heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have truly earned the title of man’s best friend through bravery, support or companionship. All the dogs showed unfailing loyalty and spirit in their constant desire to help, and are a great example of the incredible difference that dogs can make.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokesperson, said: “We congratulate Lou and Brock, who really show just how much dogs can enrich our lives and the profound difference that they can make. Brock is not only a special dog himself but he represents all of the great work that is done every day by lowland search and rescue dogs.
“All six finalists were truly deserving of their place in this year’s competition, which celebrates and reward those dogs who quietly go about changing people’s lives in their own unique and special way.
“Crufts celebrates the diverse role that dogs play in society; their vast range of talents, jobs and hobbies and the reasons why they have earned the title of man’s best friend.”
CRUFTS FRIENDS FOR LIFE FINALISTS 2009
FARLEY, A BLACK LABRADOR, AND STEVE GILL FROM BANBURY, LEICESTERSHIRE: Assistance dog, Farley, has made a soft touch out of former British Army Soldier, Steve, who lost both of his legs and one eye during a posting in Northern Ireland when he was 20 years old. Now, twenty years on, Steve has adapted to his new life, and limbs, with the help of his right hand man Farley – who empties his washing machine, opens doors and fetches Steve’s prosthetic limbs and carries out other tasks that give Steve his independence and confidence.
GEM, YELLOW LABRADOR AND OWNER EVIE CROOK FROM DRONFIELD, DERBYSHIRE: Seven year-old Evie is the youngest deaf person in the UK to receive a hearing dog and her life has since changed immeasurably. Evie now has the confidence to sleep on her own for the first time in her life and Gem alerts her to sounds and voices so that she doesn’t feel isolated from those around her.
HARRY, TIBETAN TERRIER AND OWNER CAROLINE RICH FROM WALES: Harry was the only companion for Caroline when she was made homeless after fleeing from domestic violence. Caroline Rich, from Wales, found that Harry, her Tibetan Terrier was the only one that she count on for unconditional love and friendship, really earning his title of Caroline’s new ‘best friend’. When United Welsh Housing Association stepped in to offer Caroline temporary accommodation it thankfully recognised Caroline and Harry’s love for each other, changing its policy to enable them to stay together. Caroline and Harry’s bond was so strong that appeals for help through charitable organisations and the internet meant that others stepped in as well, to ensure that Harry had all of the food and care he needed and Caroline all of the love that had become so essential for her, from her four-legged friend.
TAKARA, DALMATIAN AND CHARLOTTE BENNETT FROM CROOKESMOOR, SHEFFIELD: Takara came into twenty year-old Charlotte’s life when she was a teenager and made sure that her future will now be a very different place to the isolating experience of her childhood. Since she was born Charlotte has been battling Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome (KTS) – which can cause internal bleeding, immobility and other complications – meaning that she was often left battling for her life while hospitalised and away from her friends. When she got Takara Charlotte found a whole new lease of life, making new friends and finding the strength to follow her dream in life and set up a specialist pet shop and run dog training classes.
ANYA, GERMAN SHEPHERD AND OWNER PC NEIL SAMPSON FROM WILTSHIRE: Won Police Dog of the Year Award in after bravely confronting an armed attacker when she was just two years old and only six months into her police dog training, in 2008. Despite sustaining injuries to her chest as the attacker launched a frenzied assault on her and PC Sampson, she continued to remain focused on the attacker in order to protect her handler.
You can watch the stories of all of the 2009 Friends for Life finalists at www.crufts.org.uk/news/friends-for-life-2009.