The British public has voted assistance dog Josie and her eight year old owner, Sam Daly, as the champions of ultimate dog heroes competition at DFS Crufts, Friends for Life.
Sam and Josie Friends for Life Winners 2010The proud winners, from Eton in Berkshire, were presented with their trophy in the main Arena, at the Birmingham NEC tonight (Sunday 11th March).
The public have been voting all week for the story that moved them the most and decided that Sam and Josie were the most deserving pair. Sam is a wheelchair user with muscular dystrophy who says that “things were rubbish before she came to love me.”
Josie helps Sam with everyday tasks including undoing zips, opening doors, and even passing notes between Sam and his parents. Since having Josie Sam’s confidence has improved and she sleeps by Sam’s bedside where her intuitive and caring nature has brought peace of mind to the whole family. She has previously awoken Sam’s parents to alert them that he was about to be sick, which could have resulted in Sam choking because he is unable to turn in his sleep. Josie’s quick reactions undoubtedly ensures that Sam never comes to any harm.
Josie’s training and placement with Sam was made possible with an investment from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, granting nearly £103,000 to Dogs for the Disabled since 1991, and over £4.5m in total for dog-related causes.
Speaking about his win, Sam said: “It’s fantastic to have won especially because everyone deserves to win. Josie is my best friend and I am super proud of her. She will get a very big bone for her tea.”
Sam’s mum, Sara Daly, added: “It means so much to us to win this award. We would like to thank everyone who voted for Sam and Josie in the Friends for Life competition. Also a huge thank you to Dogs for the Disabled and the Kennel Club for making it all possible.”
Remembering life before Josie, Sara explains the challenges they regularly faced: “Sam’s frustration and anger at his condition boiled over in to every part of his life. He was desperate to join in with all the things that other children did, but his condition limited so many things that he could do. He would watch his little sister be able to play and start to do things that Sam has either never been able to master or even worse that he was no longer able to manage. While he still delights in his sister’s new found abilities each milestone she achieves is bittersweet.”
The competition, annually presented by the Kennel Club, follows five 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 show 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 give our warmest congratulations to Sam and Josie, they are a truly lovely and deserving pair. They show just how much dogs can enrich our lives and the profound difference that they can make. Josie is not only a special dog himself but he represents all of the great work that is done every day by assistance dogs.
“All five finalists were truly deserving of their place in this year’s competition, which celebrates and rewards those dogs who quietly go about changing people’s lives in their own unique and special way.
“DFS 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.”
DFS CRUFTS FRIENDS FOR LIFE FINALISTS 2010
* BOUNCER, SPRINGER SPANIEL CROSS AND OWNER PAULA COGAN FROM WILSDEN, LONDON: Having been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at 9 months old and needing a double lung transplant by the age of 13 Paula was used to having to cope with a life full of health challenges and long periods of hospitalisation. She got Bouncer when she was 6 years old and he gave her the motivation to carry out tasks that were increasingly difficult for her, from daily chores to daily walks and he repaid her with his friendship. It was the thought of coming back to Bouncer and looking forward to having the energy to be able to teach him new skills in agility and showing that got Paula through her transplant surgery, which has now given them both a new lease of life.
* TREO, BLACK LABRADOR RETRIEVER AND OWNER SERGEANT HEYHOE FROM MACCLESFIELD CHESHIRE: Was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008 as an arms explosive search dog and quickly adapted to the austere environment and daily challenges of life in a war zone. During his time in Helmand Province he showed amazing skill and bravery and made the biggest achievement of this career in August 2008 by sniffing out explosives which had been wired together in a daisy chain and hidden in the path, saving the lives of soldiers and civilians.
* COCO, CHOCOLATE LABRADOR RETRIEVER AND OWNER KAREN RUDDLESDEN FROM BROADSTONE, DORSET: Coco is the first dog in the world to be able to detect a potentially fatal attack of Addison's disease in her owner, Karen. Coco saves Karen's life everyday by alerting her to when the Cortisol levels in her body fluctuate. He stops Karen from falling into a coma at least twice a week, by detecting when her body's cortisol falls below a certain level and fetches her medicine bag. The Kennel Club Charitable Trust Cancer has given £25,000 to the Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs charity, which trains dogs to detect cancer and hypo alerts in diabetics, and Coco is its first Addison's assistant dog.
* JODY, CROSS BREED AND OWNER JESS THOMAS FROM BIRMINGHAM: It was after seeing a Pets As Therapy dog at Birmingham Children’s Hospital that 16 year old Jess began to smile again and found the will to fight her severe depression. Two years later, having seen the transforming effect that the PAT dog had on her life Jess registered her own dog, Jody, with the Pets as Therapy charity so that she could help other children in the same way. PAT dog Jody helped not only Jess but all of the other children that she went to see on the road to recovery. Despite becoming seriously ill with respiratory failure last year Jess pulled through with the thought of wanting to carry on her good work transforming other’s lives with Jody and with a promise of a parachute jump to raise money for Pets As Therapy and the work of PAT dogs, such as Jody, that she loves so much.
Find out more about all of the 2010 Friends for Life finalists by watching them online here