FIVE hero dogs took centre stage at the Kennel Club’s official Crufts launch in London on Tuesday.
They are the finalists of the show’s heart-warming Friends for Life competition, which is judged on the last evening of the show and celebrates uplifting stories of friendship in adversity.
The five dogs and their human partners who have made it through were selected for their exceptional loyalty to their owners and for the way they have changed their lives, the KC said.
The winner will be decided by a public vote, and phone lines are now open.
The five finalists are: Mastiff/Great Dane cross Jessie and Julie Barrett of Beer, Devon, who rescued each other. Julie adopted Jessie after she had endured a life of horrific abuse and neglect. Jessie, in turn, brought back Julie, who suffers with diabetes and ME and who was struggling to cope with the loss of her father, from the brink of despair.
The first of two Cocker Spaniels is Molls, who looks after 11-year-old diabetic Steven Courtney of Bicester, Oxfordshire. Molls alerts Steven and his family when his blood sugar levels become dangerously high or low, 24 hours a day, keeping him safe, which means that family members do not have to stay with him and he can live his life to the full.
The second Cocker is Molly, who looks after Lucy Watts from Benfleet in Essex. Lucy has a life-limiting, rare genetic condition which has left her in a wheelchair and in pain. She was withdrawn and unhappy until Molly came along and gave her confidence she never imagined she would have.
The fourth finalist is guide dog Labrador/Golden Retriever cross Radley, whose human partner is Konrad Galen-Bisping of Carmarthenshire. Radley has allowed Konrad to regain his independence and confidence after he was blinded in an attack during Army training.
Twelve-year-old Lottie Wilcocks of Ripponden, West Yorkshire, has spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and her Labrador Velvet helps her with all her tasks. Despite not being able to walk or feel sensation below her mid-thigh Lottie, who is a Paralympic athlete, Lottie is now happier and more capable of dealing with her daily life.
KC secretary Caroline Kisko said: "The dogs who 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. All the finalists have helped change and save their owner’s lives in their own unique and special way.”
The winner will receive £1,500 and the other finalists will receive £750, which will go to their chosen charities. These will be: and Julie and Jessie, Dogs 4 Adoption; Steven and Molls, Medical Detection Dogs; Lucy and Molly, A.I.D for Dogs; Konrad and Radley, Guide Dogs and the special care baby unit at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen; and Lottie and Velvet, Dogs for the Disabled.
People can vote by phoning 0844 646 and then each finalist’s dedicated number: Julie and Jessie 0205; Steven and Molls 0201; Lucy and Molly 0202; Konrad and Radley 0203; and Lottie and Velvet 0204; Julie and Jessie 0205. Calls cost 5p from a BT landline. Calls from other networks may vary and from mobiles will cost considerably more. Voting closes at 7.30pm on March 9. Details and terms at channel4.com/crufts.