“We have much to learn from our dogs when it comes to being kinder to each other. What this year’s Crufts shows more than anything is that it isn’t too late,” said James, speaking as an ambassador of Friends for Life at the unveiling of this year’s five finalists.
The annual Kennel Club Friends for Life competition 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.
The 2020 Friends for Life finalists include Cocker Spaniel and hearing dog, Jovi, who helped teacher and rugby coach Graham Sage recover from anxiety and depression after feeling isolated following hearing loss.
A German Shepherd Dog, Wolfie is also nominated for the award. The pooch was dragged from a burning car by PC Louise McMullen, as they supported each other from the devastating crash many feared they wouldn’t recover from.
Hospital therapy dog Leo, a Golden Retriever, part of a human-canine team set up by Lindsey Uglow, has helped an astonishing 10,000 often critically ill children and their families.
Crossbreed Ellie, also in the running, helped owner Hayley Byrne-Ingle piece her life back together after her sister Lucy took her own life.
The nominees are completed by Barrie, a Syrian crossbreed who was rescued from a collapsed building by Sean Laidlaw, but ultimately ended up saving the former soldier as he struggled with PTSD.
Dog lovers can watch specially produced videos about all of the finalists and vote for their winner here.
James Middleton added: “The theme running through each of this year’s Friends for Life category winners is the vital importance of looking after our mental health and well-being.
“Our dogs play a critical, non-judgmental, compassionate role in helping to keep our spirits up when it feels like everything is against us, and in leading us out of what can be some very dark places.
“Hayley lost her sister and is frank enough to admit that it was her dog Ellie who made her want to keep on living. Graham had retreated to an isolated depressed place because he was losing his hearing, and it was Jovi who enabled him to re-engage with people and to carry on being a wonderful teacher.
“Lyndsey and Leo, part of a human canine hospital therapy team, have helped an astonishing 10,000 often critically ill children and their families. Sean saved Barrie from beneath a collapsed building in Syria but says it was he and his colleagues who ended up being saved by this courageous little crossbreed. Louise dragged Wolfie from a blazing car despite suffering horrific injuries herself. They have helped each other recover when at times they were being written off.
“Friends for Life is an opportunity to celebrate these dogs that quietly go about changing people’s lives in their own unique and special way. We would encourage people to vote for their favourite to show their support for these extraordinary dogs. Dogs are known as man’s best friend and our five finalists go to show exactly why that is.”
Judges from the Kennel Club, the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation, selected the five inspiring finalists to go forward for the public vote, with the winner being announced by James in the Resorts World Arena at the Birmingham NEC on the final day of Crufts, the world’s greatest dog show, on Sunday, March 8.
These five dog heroes are just some of the dogs having their day at Crufts and are celebrated at the show for the ways that they enrich our lives.
The winner of the Friends for Life competition will receive £5,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for the dog charity of the choice, with the other finalists receiving £1,000 for their chosen dog charity.
The public can now vote for their favourite finalist until midday on Sunday, March 8.
Crufts runs from March 5 to 8.
For more information and to buy tickets, click here.