War Hero, Top Cop Dog & 3 Legged Stray among Friends for Life finalists 2013

(KC Release) A dog that helped save the lives of two soldiers in Afghanistan and survived capture by the Taliban, a police dog that has helped make 433 arrests, and a three legged stray that has turned the life of a seven year old boy around, just a month after being left for dead on a railway line, are among the final five dog heroes who will compete in the public vote for the prestigious Friends for Life final at Crufts 2013.

The Kennel Club’s Friends for Life competition, which has been running since 2006, 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.

The five dogs in the 2013 competition were selected for their outstanding bravery and devotion to their owners. The dog that the public votes as having the most truly deserving tale will be presented with the trophy during a special ceremony in the main arena at the Birmingham NEC, on the final night of Crufts (Sunday 10th March) which will be televised live by Channel 4.

The finalists for 2013 are:

Haatchi (from Basingstoke, Hampshire): Three legged stray who turned life of boy with rare genetic disease around – Haatchi, an Anatolian Shepherd Dog, had to have a severely damaged leg and tail amputated after being deliberately tied to a railway line in London and struck by a train. Just a month after his near death experience he was found on Facebook by the family of seven year old Owen Howkins, who has a rare genetic condition called Schwartz Jampel Syndrome, which causes his muscles to be permanently tense.

Owen, who was withdrawn and scared to leave the house, now has a new lease of life thanks to his beloved dog. He fund raises for a range of charities with Haatchi, including Naomi House, and enjoys socialising on dog walks and at dog shows. Haatchi, who is a therapy dog, will soon begin visiting soldier amputees as a result of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and sick and terminally ill children.

Owen says: “Haatchi has changed my life. I didn’t really meet many others with disabilities and felt like the odd one out, which made me really sad. But when I saw Haatchi and saw how strong he was, even though he only had three legs, I became stronger myself. I love him so much.”

Stars including Liam Gallagher, Sarah Harding, Ricky Gervais, Meg Matthews and Brian May come out to support Pup Aid at celebrity judged fun dog show held to raise awareness of Puppy Farming. www.Pupaid.org Primrose Hill, London, UK Saturday 8th September

(Above) Haatchi, Owen and a few other familiar faces as they easily won Best in Show at last year’s Pup Aid 

Brin (from Hailsham, East Sussex): Afghanistan hero dog who survived capture by the Taliban – Starving and abandoned on a roadside, Brin saved the life of two soldiers near Helmand in 2010, when he barked to alert them to a hidden bomb that would have killed them. He was quickly taken in as a loyal friend to the soldiers and went on patrols with them but this all changed when Taliban forces captured the soldier’s new team-mate and friend.

Later that year a daring mission was mounted by Afghanistan Special Forces against the Taliban and Brin was found. His plight was still not over, and he faced being left behind and killed when the unit flew home, so a campaign that went worldwide was mounted to save him and he was bought back to the UK by Nowzad Dogs Charity. Brin now tours the country with his new owner, Sally, raising money to help the shelter in Afghanistan.

Sally says: “Brin has been through so much but this never stopped him being loyal, loving and brave. Despite being left starving and abandoned, he found new humans to love and saved the soldiers’ lives. Having survived being captured by the Taliban, he came back to the UK and made the most loving pet. He is one in a million.”

Janus (from Birmingham, West Midlands): Police dog with 433 arrests to his name – The Malinois Belgian Shepherd Dog, handled by PC Dan Thomas of West Midlands Police, has used his searching and tracking skills to secure the arrest of 285 crime suspects and has assisted in a further 157 captures by scaling 6ft high fences and chasing down suspects.

At almost ten years of age he is now taking a well-earned retirement, but in his time in service his successes included uncovered £5,000 stolen from a security van heist and on another occasion sniffed out more than £10,000 worth of stolen power tools.

PC Thomas, who is keeping Janus as a pet, says: “The bond between any dog and owner is special but the bond between a working dog and handler is amazing, at times he has depended on me but more often I have depended on him when he’s come to my aid, fended off violent offenders and located countless suspects who were evading capture. He’ll be given the very best care and attention in retirement and loved for the rest of his days.”

Daisy (from Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire): dog who bought joy to tragic family who lost son and dog to brain tumours in the same year – Tracey Marshall tragically lost her six year old son Jack in October 2011, after a two year battle with a brain tumour. Just months before, the family’s Bullmastiff, Louis, had to be put to sleep after being diagnosed with a tumour as well. The family needed to help fill the immense void in their lives and the family decided to take on Daisy, another Bullmastiff, who helped in ways they could not have imagined.

Tracey says: “No parent should have to lose a beloved child and losing our family pet in the same year just added to our misery. The house was so quiet and lonely. Daisy helped to bring love and laughter back into our home and without her I don’t know how we would have had the strength to go on. People underestimate just how much healing the love of a dog can give, in even the most tragic of times.”

Max and Ziggy (from Thame, Oxfordshire): Assistance dogs who helped owners on the brink to find love – In a wheelchair and feeling isolated by disability caused by several life-threatening conditions including spinal surgery, brain tumour and double bilateral mastectomies leading to spinal bacterial meningitis, Sue Harvey almost gave up on life until her first assistance dog, Inka, arrived. She was then left heartbroken by her premature death. Byron Harvey, who has been in a wheelchair since boyhood due to polio, was devastated by the tragic loss of his childhood sweetheart and his assistance dog Isis was the only one to keep him going.

In a truly inspiring story Sue and Byron were bought together because of the link between their two original assistance dogs, who were sisters. Their friendship blossomed into love and then marriage in 2008, and now they and their current dogs Max and Ziggy show a love and care for one another that can scarcely be matched. Bryon said: “Both Sue and I had been through a lot of heartache due to our disabilities and the loss of ones closest to us. It was our original assistance dogs that bought us together and the journey to get our new assistance dogs helped cement that growing love. We share the knowledge of how life changing these dogs are, giving us independence and a second chance at life. We are now such a close knit family.”

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The dogs nominated for this year’s Friends for Life competition help to remind us what it is that makes the relationship between dog and man so very special. Each and every one of the finalists has helped to change and save lives, and can teach us all a lesson about loyalty, companionship and bravery.”

Friends for Life is one of a number of events and competitions at Crufts that celebrate the diverse role that dogs play in society and the way that they enrich our lives. The close relationship between dog and owner will be celebrated in the agility, obedience, and showing competitions, and the Scruffts final for crossbreeds, alongside the Police Dog Team Operational and Humanitarian Action of the Year Award.

The winner of the Friends for Life competition will be presented with a £1,500 to give to their chosen charity and the other finalists will receive £750. The finalists’ charities are as follows: Sally and Brin, Nowzad Dogs; Owen and Haatchi, Naomi House (Children’s Hospice); Dan and Janus, Medical Detection Dogs; Byron and Sue and Max and Ziggy, Dogs for the Disabled and Tracey and Daisy, the Jack Marshall Brain Tumour Fund.

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