Five life-changing dogs named as finalists in Crufts Hero Awards

The Kennel Club and actress Sally Phillips have revealed the five finalists of the prestigious Hero Dog Award, taking place at Crufts 2022.

The annual Kennel Club Hero Dog Award celebrates the unique relationship people have with their dogs, the important role man’s best friend plays throughout our lives and the support they give us in the face of adversity.

Judges from The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation, selected the five inspiring finalists to go forward for the public vote. The winner will be announced by the award’s ambassador, Sally Phillips, in the Resorts World Arena at the Birmingham NEC on the final day of Crufts, the world’s greatest dog show, on Sunday 13 March. These five four-legged heroes are just some of the dogs being celebrated at Crufts for the ways in which they enrich our lives.

The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award finalists for 2022 are:

Best Friends – Golden Retriever Guide Dog Milo, and his owner, Scott

Scott Bailey, from Crewe in Cheshire, started losing his sight in 2019. “I lost all confidence and felt I couldn’t be the dad my two girls deserved,” Scott explains. “I was scared and unable to leave the house alone. I went from working outdoors as a dairy farmer, to sitting within four walls, day in, day out.”

Scott applied for a guide dog but sadly, due to Covid-19 the country went into lockdown and his training with Milo the three-year-old Golden Retriever was postponed.

Eventually, in September 2020, Milo finally became a full-time family member of the Bailey household and by November, he and Scott had qualified together as owner and guide dog.

Having Milo by his side has not only brought Scott confidence, independence and immeasurable happiness, but Scott’s life is often in Milo’s paws. Milo has prevented Scott from being injured by unexpected building works, and on one occasion, even stopped him from crossing a road during a dangerous police car chase, saving his life.

Milo’s impact has reached beyond just guiding. At home, Scott believes that Milo has given his daughters their dad back. And because of Milo, Scott has had the confidence to return to college where he is training as a counsellor to help others affected by sight loss.

Rescue dog hero – Chewie

Chewie was found abandoned with his littermates at just 12 weeks old. They were heartbreakingly found half buried in a bag with their paws and mouths taped up.

Loretta and Ray Whiteley, from Leyland, Lancashire, adopted Chewie, who is now five, and were determined to care for him after his sad start to life. And Chewie fast became a very important family member, helping Ray, who has multiple sclerosis, with his confidence.

In 2018, Loretta was in the garden when she heard Chewie barking frantically. She went inside to find Ray slumped in his chair in respiratory arrest, and Chewie jumping on his chest with all his might. One of the tricks Loretta and Ray taught Chewie early on was to do ‘CPR’ on their other rescue dogs. By the time Loretta got Ray out of his chair, he was in cardiac arrest. Loretta carried out CPR until the paramedics arrived.

Without Chewie, Ray would have died.

Since his life-saving act, Chewie, alongside Loretta, has helped to raise over £5,000 for animal charities and other pets in need. Their fundraising efforts have supported a memorial in honour of a puppy buried alive – in a situation similar to Chewie’s – in Leyland; the work of nine rescue charities; paid for the vet’s bills for an owner whose cat had been attacked and helped a family who lost everything in a house fire.

Hero Support Dog – Newfoundlands Storm, Sonar, Bob and Walker

Pete Lewin, from Leicester, runs a non-profit organisation working with his Newfoundland dogs for suicide prevention. This amazing team provides support for staff from front-line emergency services and military veterans, and those struggling with their mental health. With the Covid-19 pandemic, this has never been more important.

Pete, who himself is a long-standing front-line paramedic for the East Midlands Ambulance Service, has worked with water dogs as a hobby for around 25 years. Both his own experiences and feedback from others about the positive effects of swimming in open water with Newfoundlands, who are natural water rescue dogs, made him realise the potential for a unique experience to support people with mental health needs.

“These dogs really are life-savers,” says Pete. “One guy came to us after he took an overdose. Before swimming with the dogs, he was suicidal, and now he works for the ambulance service. Whatever it is that the dogs have got, it is helping people.”

Child’s Champion – Golden Retriever, Ruby

Four-year-old Golden Retriever, Ruby has a special relationship with 16-year-old Olivia Cunliffe, from Barnsley, Yorkshire.

Olivia has cerebral palsy and Ruby helps her every day with her pain, anxiety and stress. Olivia loves to give her biscuits and Ruby likes to bring her clothes and help in any way she can.

With much of her treatment being pushed back because of Covid, Olivia has also been in a lot of pain, which worsens her involuntary movements. Ruby helps to calm these movements – she lays with Olivia and tucks herself into her body and relaxes her. Ruby also actively gets involved in Olivia’s physio and supports her through different challenges, including shielding for over two years during the pandemic.

Extraordinary Life of a Working Dog – Simba the Springer Spaniel

Five-year-old Springer Spaniel, Simba, assists his handler Anton Keach in the London Fire Brigade as a Fire Investigation Dog. Simba is a crucial member of this life-saving team because he can very quickly detect a variety of ignitable substances and help determine whether a fire has been started deliberately, ensuring justice for victims of horrific arson crimes.

Last year, Simba helped to bring murderers to justice after finding that accelerants had been used at a fatal fire in London. He indicated multiple points where an accelerant was found and his work at the scene helped with the police investigation.

Simba also importantly provides great therapy to his two-legged colleagues, bringing a smile to their faces even after the toughest of days.

“Simba is a hero to us and an integral part of the London Fire Brigade team,” said Anton.

Sally Phillips, the ambassador for The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award 2022, comments: “I wish we could all ‘be more dog’ – my dogs are way more heroic than I am, except around fireworks and food! Dogs have a remarkable impact on our lives, from the smallest things, like welcoming us home after a tough day, to getting us through heartbreak, sickness and grief – all the most difficult times.

“The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award is a truly inspiring celebration of man’s best friend and all they do for us. There were hundreds of amazing nominees, with this year’s five finalists each recognised for their extraordinary feats and the difference they make.

“We would encourage people to vote for their favourite hero dog to show their support for these incredible four-legged friends and to celebrate their bravery, loyalty and friendship.”

The winner of The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award will receive £5,000 from The Kennel Club Charitable Trust for the dog charity of their choice, with the other finalists receiving a £1,000 donation to their chosen canine charity.

The public can now watch each of the finalist’s stories in specially-made videos and vote for their Hero Dog 2022, until midday on Sunday 13th March, by visiting crufts.org.uk/herodogawards2022.

The winner will be revealed in the Resorts World Arena at Crufts on the evening of Sunday 13th March.