Friends For Life competition at Crufts 2012

Tails of doggie devotion

Friends for Life will again be taking place at Crufts 2012 and will be highlighting five truly amazing stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have truly earned the title of man’s best friend, through bravery, support or companionship.

The Kennel Club’s Friends for Life competition, which has been running since 2006, celebrates heart-warming stories. The stories at this year’s show have been carefully selected from five different categories for their outstanding bravery and devotion to their owners. The categories are Service Dog, Assistance Dog, Police Dog, Companion Dog and Support Dog of a Paralympic Hopeful.

Among this year’s contenders are Buster the RAF dog who has done five tours of duty in Afghanistan, Obi the police dog injured during the riots in August 2011, and Libby, the Support Dog of Lorna, a cyclist, who will be representing Britain in the 2012 Paralympic Games.

The public can vote for the dog that they think should win the competition when the phone lines open on 25th February. The winner voted as having the most deserving tale will be presented with the trophy, and money generously donated by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for a charity of their choice, during a special ceremony in the Crufts main arena at the Birmingham NEC on Sunday 11th March by Clare Balding. The announcement will be televised live by More4. 

Clare Balding said: “The Crufts Friends for Life competition shows what a positive difference dogs make to people, from saving lives to giving them a purpose to carry on, and illustrates their intuition and the lengths they will go to in order to look after their owners and carers. As a society of dog loving owners, we have a duty to recognise, respect and raise awareness of this, and give back to them all we can.”

Click here to watch our Friends For Life 2012 playlist on YouTube featuring all five entrants

Phil and Obi – Police Dog
Obi and his handler PC Phil Wells were on the front line during the riots on 6th August in Tottenham, when a large crowd began throwing bottles and bricks at the police. Obi was struck by a brick, but bravely carried on working despite bleeding from his nose. After an assessment, Obi was found to have a fractured skull above the left eye socket.

Phil says: ‘He is my best friend. To see him get injured and to see him on a theatre table - and you’re not sure what has happened and you’re not sure if it’s touch and go - is very emotional. I have had him since he was a puppy, and I spend more time with him than my children and family. When I am at work, he is at work and when I am at home, he is at home.” Obi has now made a full recovery from his injuries and continues to loyally work for the Metropolitan Police, helping to protect the public.

Watch Phil & Obi's video

Lora and Libby - Support Dog of a Paralympic Hopeful
Lora was born with a hereditary sight-loss condition, which also affects her mother and two brothers. But losing her sight by the age of five has not affected Lora’s determination, and she is currently in training for a cycling place in the London 2012 Paralympic games.

She is accompanied at all times by her faithful friend and guide dog, Libby, a black Labrador Retriever.

From the moment they met, Libby has rarely left Lora’s side, attending training sessions - where she sits on the track - or waiting for her in the changing rooms if she is out on the road. She even gave Lora the confidence to move away from home to go and study physiotherapy at the University of Birmingham.

Lora says: “Libby is amazing. The first day we met she bounded out of the back of the training van and jumped up to see me, tail wagging – it was as though she knew she was meant to be with me.

“My training schedule at the moment is really busy, and Libby puts in just as many hours as I do, but never complains! Just finding my way to the velodrome without Libby can be a draining experience as all my concentration has to go into navigating my way there safely. When I’m with Libby I don’t need to worry about any of that which means I can focus all my efforts into my cycling. Any medals I win in 2012 I will be sharing with her!”

Watch Lora & Libby's video

Michael and Buster – Service Dog

Buster is now retired from the RAF after surviving five tours of duty, braving bombs and bullets. He has returned home a military hero and is now enjoying retirement at home with RAF Police Sergeant Michael Barrow who he worked with tirelessly.

While in service, Buster saved countless lives by sniffing out explosive vests, leading to the arrests of two suicide bombers. He joined his comrades repeatedly on foot patrols through the poppy fields, hunting Taliban insurgents and tracking down booby trap bombs left behind for British and American troops.

Since Buster's Friends for Life nomination, Michael has been redeployed on a tour of duty. Flight Sergeant Phil Brown will be present at Crufts on behalf of Michael.

Watch Michael & Buster's video

Karen and Ruby – Companion Dog
Karen brought Ruby Roo for her daughter two and a half years ago, but from the moment she got her, Ruby became her dog. Karen says: “After suffering from depression for nearly 25 years, after a childhood of bullying and losing my father at an early age, Ruby has finally given me something to live for.

“Ruby follows me wherever I go and I take her everywhere with me. She has given me the confidence to get out and start meeting people again. I first took Ruby to a local fun dog show with my daughter as I couldn’t go to places alone. I have now met some lovely people and, because of Ruby, I am now studying to be a dog trainer.

“I still find it really hard if I don’t have Ruby with me, and she makes me such a strong person. I have good and bad days, but Ruby is always by my side. She never judges me or tells me to pull myself together, and she is always there for me. I can never repay Ruby for what she has done for me. Ruby is my world and my lifeline, and I truly believe that if it wasn’t for her I’m not sure that I would be here today. I love my Ruby so much.”

Watch Karen & Ruby's video

Steve and Kizzie – Assistance dog
Steve joined the Royal Navy at the age of 17 and progressed through the ranks, working with the Royal Marines and earning the coveted Green Beret in the process.

In 2008, while travelling home from work, Steve was hit by a car and thrown from his motorbike.  He suffered a burst fracture of the neck which irreparably damaged his spinal cord leaving him paralysed from the shoulders down.   His world completely collapsed.

After a long time in hospital, Steve was transferred to Headley Court military rehab unit, where he heard about Canine Partners. A visit was arranged, and that’s when he saw what they could do and how they could help him.

Before Steve met Kizzie, he had lost a lot of weight, had anxiety and breathing difficulties, and was suffering from depression. Coping with the transition from an active lifestyle into a wheelchair was soul-destroying, as he could see the effect it was having on his family.  The only interaction he had with his children was to talk or watch them from a wheelchair or bed. 

There was an instant bond between Steve and Kizzie and she has given him a new lease of life.  When they go out and about, she helps by getting those difficult lift buttons that are just out of his reach, and he doesn’t have to take a carer with him. In a shop, she takes his wallet and passes it to the cashier.

At home, when he drops something like his phone, remote or keys she instantly picks them up and returns them to his lap. But the real reward he has from Kizzie is the life she has helped him get back, in particular the close relationship with his young children, as he can take them out to play again down the park with Kizzie.

Watch Steve & Kizzie's video

ENDS
[060.12]
25th February 2012

How to vote:

Phil and Obi            - 0844 646 0201
Lora and Libby         - 0844 646 0202
Michael and Buster         - 0844 646 0203
Karen and Ruby         - 0844 646 0204
Steve and Kizzie         - 0844 646 0205

Calls cost 5p from a BT land line.  Calls from other networks may vary and from mobiles will cost considerably more.  Details and terms at channel4.com/crufts. Voting closes at 7.30pm on Sunday 11th March 2012.

For journalists who would like further press information, images or interview requests click here.

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Notes to editors
•    Watch Crufts on More4 from 6.30pm – 9pm on 8th – 11th March. This will include all of the highlights from the Arena programme, including the presentation to the Friends for Life winner. Also watch Crufts live on the Crufts YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/Crufts.
•    For the latest updates you can join the Crufts Facebook page at www.facebook.com/crufts or follow the Kennel Club on Twitter.com/KCLovesDogs.
•    The Kennel Club, organiser of Crufts, is the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of dogs. At its heart are programmes and investments in education and health initiatives to help dogs across the UK to live long, healthy, happy lives with responsible owners.
•    Crufts is a unique celebration of happy, healthy dogs and of the loving relationship that they enjoy with their owners. It recognises the varied roles that dogs play in society and highlights the many different disciplines and activities in which dogs are involved.

The Kennel Club
The Kennel Club is the largest organisation in the UK devoted to dog health, welfare and training. Its objective is to ensure that dogs live healthy, happy lives with responsible owners.

It runs the country’s largest registration database for both pedigree and crossbreed dogs and the Petlog database, which is the UK’s largest reunification service for microchipped animals. The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme is the only scheme in the UK that monitors and sets standards for breeders, in order to protect the welfare of puppies and breeding bitches. It also runs the UK’s largest dog training programme, the Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme and licenses shows and clubs across a wide range of activities, which help dog owners to bond and enjoy life with their dogs. The Kennel Club runs the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, and the Discover Dogs event at Earls Court, London, which is a fun family day out that educates people about how to buy responsibly and care for their dog.

The Kennel Club invests in welfare campaigns, dog training and education programmes and the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which supports research into dog diseases and dog welfare charities, including Kennel Club Breed Rescue organisations that re-home dogs throughout the UK. The Kennel Club jointly runs health screening schemes with the British Veterinary Association and through the Charitable Trust, funds the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust, which is at the forefront of pioneering research into dog health.