A dog that can detect a potentially fatal drop in a young boy’s blood sugar levels; a Lance Corporal’s dog who helped him live a normal life again after he was blinded during training and a Cocker Spaniel who helps give a wheelchair bound young lady with a rare genetic disease much needed confidence, are amongst the five finalists for the Crufts Friends for Life competition 2014.
The annual Crufts Friends for Life competition, run by the Kennel Club, celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity and the five dogs which have made the 2014 shortlist were selected for their exceptional loyalty to their owners and for the way that they have changed their lives.
Voting lines are now open and the dog that goes on to receive the most public votes will win the competition, which will be announced at the Birmingham NEC, on the final night of Crufts, Sunday 9th March.
The finalists for 2014 are:
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The dogs that have made the final of the Crufts Friends for Life competition are all truly inspirational and demonstrate just how important dogs are to our lives and what a difference they make to us, both in our best times and when things are tough.
“People can vote for the story that touches them the most and the winner will be announced on the final night of Crufts. Of course, each and every one of the dogs has helped to change and save their owner’s life in their own unique and special way.”
The winner of the Friends for Life competition will receive £1,500 and the other finalists will receive £750, from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, all for their chosen charities. These will be: Steven and Molls, Medical Detection Dogs; Lucy and Molly, A.I.D for Dogs; Konrad and Radley, Guide Dogs and Special Care Baby Unit at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen; Lottie and Velvet, Dogs for the Disabled and Julie and Jessie, Dogs 4 Adoption.
People can vote for their ultimate ‘Friend for Life’ by using the numbers below:
Calls cost 5p from a BT land line.Calls from other networks may vary and from mobiles will cost considerably more.Voting closes at 7.30pm on Sunday 9th March 2014.Details and terms at channel4.com/crufts
Notes to Editors
Cocker Spaniel Molls and Steven Courtney, from Bicester, Oxfordshire: Medical Detection dog, Molls, saves her eleven year old owner Steven’s life, with her ability to detect when his blood sugar levels fall or rise to life threateing levels.Steven was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was three and everyone in his household was constantly on high alert until Molls came along three years ago. As part of the alert, Molls has been trained to fetch the glucose testing kit; she has even alerted from the sidelines when Steven was playing football preventing an episode and allowing Steven to enjoy the sport he loves.
Serena Courtney, Steven’s mum, said: “Having Molls has changed our lives as a family. Steven is so much calmer and more relaxed and the bond that they share is incredible. We feel so much better knowing that she is around to look out for her best friend.”
Cocker Spaniel Molly and Lucy Watts, from Benfleet, Essex - Feeling isolated and alone as a result of her chronic and life limiting illness, 20 year old Lucy was giving up on life before Molly entered it. Living with ehlers-danlos syndrome, Lucy is in pain, fed through her bloodstream and wheelchair bound and was in a dark place before Molly came along. Molly gave Lucy the assurance and independence that she needed.
Since Molly has been in her life she has gained independence and confidence. Instead of everything being about her condition when she met new people, the conversation would instead turn to Molly and Lucy’s confidence grew. Instead of being shy and withdrawn she will now take Molly to agility training and she has even spoken in parliament. And when she has can’t get out of bed for days, or even weeks, Molly never judges and can always make Lucy smile.
Lucy said: “Molly has not only given me confidence but also independence to live what remains of my life in a way I couldn’t have imagined before. For the first time in six years, I went out on my own and took her for a walk. It was such a liberating experience.
“Being in a wheelchair can be an isolating experience; people don't know how to talk to you so often they don't include you. I found that really hard but when Molly came into my life it was like my wheelchair didn't exist, people started talking to me and including me. Suddenly I was a part of society. Molly did that. She broke down the barrier between the able and disabled for me. I now feel included, wanted and important and the bond between us is unbreakable.”
Labrador Golden Retriever cross, Radley and Konrad Galen-Bisping, from Carmarthenshire – Radley gave former Lance Corporal Konrad his independence again after he tragically lost his sight. Konrad was blinded after being attacked with an axe by a soldier during a training exercise, leaving him with memory problems and destroying his promising career in the army.After the incident Konrad found himself plunged into a newly dark world and would physically shake at the prospect of having to leave his room. But after meeting guide dog Radley, Konrad’s self-confidence began to grow, and the pair built a rapport which allowed him to live a normal life again. Now Radley goes everywhere with Konrad and they even attend a gym together where Konrad met his now wife, Siwan.
Konrad, aged 37, said: “Before I had Radley, I didn't want to go out at all. He has had a major impact on my life and completely turned it around. He gave me more confidence and has made me realise it's not all bad out there. He's truly is my best friend.”
Labrador Velvet and Lottie Wilcocks, from Ripponden, West Yorkshire - Just after she was born Lottie Wilcocks underwent nine hours of major surgery and since then has also had bowel and bladder operations. Mum Tracey, a Macmillan Nurse, found out when she was pregnant that Lottie had spina bifida and hydrocephalus.Lottie will never walk and has no sensation below mid-thigh; she can’t feel her knees, shins or feet and gets around only in a wheelchair.
Assistance dog Velvet came into her life two years ago and turned it around; with Velvet’s help Lottie can be an ordinary schoolgirl like her friends. Not only does Velvet help her open doors and drawers, switch on lights and pick up dropped items, she also knows the ‘speak’ command and can fetch the phone if Lottie falls out of her wheelchair and needs help.During Lottie’s hospital visits it is Velvet that keeps her calm. The pairing has given Lottie a huge boost in self-confidence and the aspiring Paralympic athlete who represents the North West in road and track wheelchair races, now leads a full and active life.
Lottie said: “Velvet is my best friend. I can’t imagine life without her. She comes everywhere with me and gives me the confidence to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do without her. She is the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of night.”
Mastiff Great Dane cross, Jessie and Julie Barrett, from Beer, Devon – Jessie had a horrendous start in life after being physically abused. She had cigarette burns on her legs and ears and her nose had been slashed.
She was rescued from a lock-up shed after neighbours alerted the police to her crys. The rescue came at just the right time for Jessie but also for her new owner, Julie Barret, who was at her lowest ebb just before Jessie entered her life. Struggling with the daily symptoms of diabetes, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and other painful conditions, she then lost her father, and Julie was struggling to cope.
Julie, aged 33, said: “When Jessie came into my life I was at my lowest point but it felt like my problems were nothing compared to the abuse that she had endured. I put all of my energy into making sure that she was happy and healthy and she gave me a new reason for living. Now, if I am upset or crying, Jessie licks away my tears. I have never known such a loyal, loving and trusting dog.Despite everything she has been through she loves and trusts everyone and I often ask myself who saved who.”