It is a big week for Banbury-based Dogs for the Disabled with its assistance dog Velvet to appear at Crufts 2014 on Sunday.
The loyal Banbury-trained Labrador will line up in the Crufts Friends for Life competition with Lottie Wilcocks – an aspiring 12-year-old Paralympian and spina bifida sufferer whom she helps lead an independent life.
Looking ahead to the Kennel Club run competition, which celebrates dogs’ exceptional loyalty to their owners, Lottie said: “Velvet is my best friend and I can’t imagine life without her. She comes everywhere with me and gives me confidence to do things I couldn’t do without her.”
Dogs for the Disabled partnered Velvet with Lottie – from Ripponden in Yorkshire – two-years-ago and helped turn Lottie’s life around.
The capable canine helps Lottie open doors and drawers, switch on lights, put her catheter rubbish in the bin, dress and undress and pick up items.
In an emergency she will bark on command and will fetch the phone if Lottie falls out of her wheelchair.
Velvet also keeps Lottie calm on hospital visits and accompanies her on training for road and track wheelchair races.
The Friends For Life competition has run since 2006 and celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have truly earned the title of man’s best friend, through bravery, support or companionship. Velvet and Lottie are among five short-listed dogs selected for their outstanding bravery or devotion to their owners who will attend the final at the Main Arena at Birmingham’s NEC on the final night of Crufts on Sunday, which will be televised by Channel 4.
Steve Billington, director of marketing at Dogs for the Disabled, said: “We’re thrilled Velvet and Lottie Wilcocks are finalists in the Crufts Friends for Life Competition, showcasing the amazing work our of our children’s assistance dogs.
“Velvet’s training at our centre here in Banbury has transformed her from delightful and enthusiastic puppy into a skilled and loyal companion for Lottie – a real Friend for Life.”
The Friends for Life competition winner is selected by members of the public and you can vote for Velvet by calling 0844 6460204.
To see more about Lottie’s story visit http://bit.ly/M9wwfL