The Kennel Club and broadcaster Kay Burley have today (22 February 2023) revealed the five finalists shortlisted for the prestigious Kennel Club Hero Dog Award, urging the public to vote for the four-legged friend they want to see crowned as the UK’s most heroic dog at Crufts 2023. They are:
- A Spaniel who has spent hundreds of nights camping out with his teenage owner to raise money for rescue dogs and an organisation helping Ukrainian dogs and owners
- A Staffordshire Bull Terrier police dog who has protected the nation from criminals and changed perceptions of the breed
- A special assistance dog who has helped his young owner overcome chronic, debilitating pain – and the isolation which comes with an invisible illness – to become a high-flying lawyer
- A rescue Cocker Spaniel who has overcome the odds – having been passed through multiple owners and deemed ‘naughty’ – to become a life-saving Bio Medical Detection Dog
- And a pet Labrador Retriever who has seen her owners through hard times, including the youngest family member who has leukaemia.
The annual Kennel Club Hero Dog Award, supported by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, celebrates the unique relationships people have with their dogs and the important role man’s best friend plays throughout our lives and in society.
Judges from The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation, selected the five inspiring finalists to go forward for the public vote, which opened today. The winner will be announced by the award’s ambassador, Kay Burley, in the Resorts World Arena at the Birmingham NEC and on Channel 4 on Sunday 12 March, the final day of Crufts, the world’s greatest celebration of dogs. These four-legged heroes are just some of the dogs which will be celebrated at Crufts for the ways in which they enrich our lives.
The award this year is also honouring those dogs involved with the search and rescue mission in Turkey and Syria after the horrific earthquake. These heroic teams will be specially recognised at Crufts for their bravery and dedication.
The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award finalists for 2023 are:
Child’s Champion – Springer Spaniel, Bertie and his fundraising buddy, Ashley
13-year-old Ashley Owens and his dog Bertie, from Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, have spent over 650 nights camping out in a tent as part of their ‘sleep out to help out’ fundraising campaign.
The duo are sleeping under the stars to raise £30,000 to help a volunteer-run charity, Paws2Rescue, who are on the Ukraine border, helping find refuge for pets and owners and providing essential supplies to the sheltering Ukrainians. The charity also provides sanctuary to stray dogs, and are building a site with a play area, shelter and vet clinic where ongoing minor treatments and neutering will be carried out, to reduce the hundreds of thousands of stray dogs sleeping under the stars – just like Ashley is.
“There are nights that are really difficult and I don’t want to go out,” says Ashley. “Rain is pouring down, winds are blowing or I just don’t feel that well. Then I think of the dogs. I know it’s a lot to raise £30,000, but I want the dogs to be safe, sheltered and fed.”
And Bertie gives Ashley a reason every night to continue his challenge. At times when Ashley has felt low or wavering, Bertie is there to support him through, and when temperatures dropped to the minus’, he kept Ashley warm too!
Extraordinary Life of a Working Dog – retired Police Dog Stella, and her owner PC Claire Todd
Police Dog Stella has just retired from Gloucestershire police after serving eight and a half years as a police drugs, cash and firearms recovery dog.
Despite her sad start to life, as an RSPCA rescue dog, Stella overcame the odds in 2014 to become the first Staffordshire Bull Terrier Police Dog in the UK.. In her working career, alongside her owner PC Claire Todd, Stella has found weapons and thousands of pounds worth of drugs and cash, making her a true canine hero, working to keep the nation safe. Outside of her vital work with the police bringing criminals to justice, she has also helped people overcome their fear of dogs during school and community talks.
Claire said: “I’m so very proud of Stella. She is an amazing ambassador for the breed, showing how loving, loyal and intelligent they are. She’s well and truly earnt her retirement.”
Hero Support Dog – Dogs for Good assistance dog, Albert, and his owner, Jemima
24-year-old, Jemima Banks, from Warwickshire, has suffered from debilitating health conditions and chronic pain, which cannot be treated with surgery, since she was 16. Rapid and overwhelming changes to her life meant that her dream of going to University was no longer viable and she became isolated from friends who were now living the life she’d hoped to be able to experience herself. She had no independence and her invisible illness made her world feel small.
But her assistance dog, Albert, who she was matched with by Dogs for Good, has made a huge difference to her everyday life, restoring her independence and enabling her to thrive – both professionally and personally.
“Chronic pain destroys you from the inside,” says Jemima. “It’s 24/7, relentless, and it’s easy to decide not to do anything with the day because you don’t want to deal with the pain. But now, for the first time since my health deteriorated, I feel positive about the future.”
With Albert by her side, Jemima’s professional life is flourishing and she now works for a top global law firm, where Albert is the star of the office.
Rescue Dog Hero – Medical Detection Dog Asher and his owner, Claire
Asher, a ten-year-old Cocker Spaniel, was taken on by Medical Detection Dogs as a rescue, having been rehomed multiple times by the age of three. He was deemed ‘naughty’ and ‘neurotic’, but it was soon realised he just needed to be busy. Asher happily found a home, and a life-saving job, with Dr Claire Guest, founder of Medical Detection Dogs, which uses the amazing power of the dog’s nose to detect human diseases.
“Asher is just the sort of dog we love,” says Claire. “The reason he was bouncing off the walls is that he just wanted to ‘do’. We give them something to do!”
Asher is now one of the most experienced members of the Bio Detection team at the organisation – which is helping scientists and medics develop faster and cheaper ways to detect diseases – and has played a huge part in helping to prove that dogs can detect the odour of disease and be a fast, accurate and non-invasive method of diagnosis for some of the world’s biggest killers.
Much has been learnt from his twitchy, brown nose – over the years Asher has detected Parkinson’s disease, malaria and Covid-19.
Best Friends - family pet, Beauty, and the Bellamy family
Beauty the Labrador Retriever has got the Bellamy family, from Swansea, through the toughest of times, and continues to be a four-legged best friend to them all.
11-year-old Lily, the youngest member of the family, was diagnosed with leukaemia, just two months after Beauty joined the family, who has been a tonic during this very difficult time. She is the only member of the family who can make Lily laugh when she is undergoing weekly chemotherapy, or taking steroids which can really impact her mood.
Wayne, Lily’s dad, also has epilepsy, which has worsened with the pressure and stress of the situation with Lily. But Beauty can sense what is happening and barks to alert Wayne and the family before the onset of a seizure. On numerous occasions she has even put herself in the way, to break his fall, which have meant fewer hospital visits for stitches or head injuries, and less stress and worry during what is already a difficult time for the whole family.
“I fail to find the words to express how pleased we all are that Beauty has been recognised as a hero,” comments Wayne. “The smile on Lily’s face when she found out would have lit up a very dark room.”
Kay Burley, the ambassador for The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award 2023, comments: “These five special dogs are not only heroes to their owners but also to the rest of us. They make a huge difference every day by providing love, companionship and dedication, and protecting the nation and saving lives.
“No one can deny the remarkable impact dogs have, from the joy they bring each day, to being by our side during the hardest times and showing extraordinary loyalty and bravery. The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award is a celebration of this unique bond we share with dogs and their heroic feats – please vote for your four-legged hero and celebrate these five inspirational dogs.”
The winner of The Kennel Club Hero Dog Award, crowned by Kay on the final day of Crufts (12 March), 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 2023, until 4pm on Sunday 12 March, by visiting crufts.org.uk/herodogaward