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Hero Devon dog nominated for Crufts award

By tobymeyjes  |  Posted: February 18, 2014


Jessie has helped transform the life of her owner Julie Barrett, from Beer

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A dog from Devon who helped her owner overcome illnesses and her father’s death. has been nominated for a Crufts award for heroic dog.

Julie Barrett, from Beer, struggled with diabetes, ME and depression but she said Jessie, a Mastiff/Great Dane cross, changed her life.

“She’s really improved my life. I was at a low point when we got her but we have helped each other,” she said.

Jessie was a rescue dog who was abused by her previous owner and found in a shed left by her owner after being sent to prison for unrelated matters. When she was found, Jessie had cigarette burns to her legs and ears and her nose had been slashed.

Fortunately neighbours heard her cries and she was given a new home with Ms Barrett, 33.

“She’s so trusting and she’s an incredible dog,” she said.

Jessie is joined by four other hero dogs who will compete in the public vote for the Friends for Life award at Crufts 2014.

Also on the shortlist is Radley, a guide dog, who helped a former lance corporal find love and become a father.

Konrad Galen-Bisping did not want to leave his home after being attacked with a pick-axe to his head during training for Iraq more than 10 years ago.

The former section commander from Carmarthenshire, Wales, was blinded by the assault committed by a fellow soldier and left him with memory problems.

Following the attack which ended his promising army career, Mr Galen-Bisping was taken to different hospitals including Headley Court, Surrey, a defence medical rehabilitation unit for 18 months.

Before getting his guide dog, a black labrador/golden retriever cross, he did not want to leave the house.

“I had no interest in going out, I didn’t trust anybody. But then a local blind charity said I need to get a dog to which I said no but they then got me to meet someone with a guide dog. After I agreed and said I would see how it goes,” he said.

And the father-of-three said the two immediately bonded.

“Radley officially became mine five years ago. I brought him home and the bond was immediate – the way he was jumping all over me, he was really excited,” he said.

His first outing after returning home was to a corner shop with Radley.

He said: “We went to a corner shop and I thought, ‘that was easy’. It was like a switch.”

Mr Galen-Bisping continued to go out and joined a gym where he met his wife five years ago who was the manager and loved dogs. They now have three sons, Jac aged two and half, Cai aged 18-months and Sion, seven months old.

He praised the dog for the new life he has.

“He got me a wife and family and he’s there for me in many ways. He knows when I’m starting to get nervous or if I feel low and he distracts me. He knows when I’m sad,” he said.

Mr Galen-Bisping added: “He has had a major impact on my life and completely turned it around. He gave me more confidence and made me realise it’s not all bad out there. He’s truly my best friend.”

And Radley is joined by three other amazing dogs vying for the prize.

Assistance dog Velvet supports Lottie Wilcocks to be independent and boosts her self-confidence.

Lottie, who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, can only get around in a wheelchair but the aspiring Paralympic athlete has not let that stop her go far in training to race.

The 12-year-old from Ripponden, West Yorkshire, attends mainstream school and said how Velvet, a black labrador, helps her with day-to-day tasks.

“Velvet will fetch the phone if I need to call for help, she gets my socks and she helps me get undressed,” she said.

The schoolgirl who will be taking part in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon on April 13 added: “She also keeps me company and gives me cuddles. Velvet is my best friend and I can’t imagine life without her. She gives me the confidence to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do without her.”

Another nominee is Molly, a cocker spaniel, who has made life easier for owner, Lucy Watts, as well as giving her more confidence.

Ms Watts, 20, is in a wheelchair because of a chronic and life-limiting illness, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which made life difficult until Molly came into her life.

She said: “Before we had Molly, my life was tough and I was struggling to see the point of it. But Molly’s given me a new lease of life – a reason to keep going. I don’t think I could live without her. She’d fetch help if I needed it.”

The family from Benfleet, Essex got Molly when she was only a puppy and since September, Molly has been training to help the 20-year-old more with her day-to-day needs.

The charity, Dog A.I.D., who help disabled owners train their dogs, is helping Molly to become an assistance dog after three stages. It came after a recommendation of the charity by a neighbour and Molly is currently at Stage 1.

The final dog transformed the life of an 11-year-old boy after giving him confidence and enabling him to play football .

Molls, a cocker spaniel, was initially only the family’s pet until Steven Courtney noticed she showed an interest when he was hypo after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of three.

Now Molls is trained to detect when Steven’s blood sugar levels rise or fall because the family contacted the Medical Detection Dog charity to train her.

Steven’s mother, Serena Courtney, 40, said the family heard about their work after a talk at their dog training club at the end of 2010 and decided to seek training for Molls to support Steven.

Steven, from Bicester, Oxfordshire, explained how Molls changed his life.

“She’s helped me be more confident because I’m not worrying about my diabetes,” he said.

His mother said Molls brought relief and support for the family.

“It was so much more stressful before. I was just desperately trying to see what was going to happen to Steven. Obviously we wanted to try and keep his levels as good as we can.

“It’s amazing what Molls has done. She can tell what’s wrong when we can’t and she’s alert in the night which is a big thing for us. She also picks up rapid changes when Steven plays football and games don’t get interrupted so much!”

The award will be presented on Sunday March 9, the final night of Crufts, at the Birmingham NEC, which will be shown on Channel 4.

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