Vanessa Holbrow, from Burnham on Sea, Somerset, and her dog Sir Jack Spratticus has tonight been announced as the winner of the dog hero competition, Friends for Life, at Crufts 2018.
Border Terrier, Jack, had been to four homes before being rescued at the age of 13 months by Vanessa, and he is credited with changing her life, helping her to live with complex mental health issues, by giving her confidence, companionship and stability.
Jack, who was selected from the Breed Rescue category, was one of just five dogs to make it to the final of the Friends for Life competition at Crufts, which celebrates the close bond between man and dog and celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity.
The winner was chosen by public vote and was announced in the Genting Arena at Crufts by Geri Horner nee Halliwell.
Together they raise awareness and breakdown stigma attached to mental health issues. Jack has given Vanessa the motivation and confidence to speak on local radio and write articles for Rethink, and together they have raised thousands of pounds for mental health charities.
Jack was accepted by the organisation Canine Generated Independence in August 2017 and is now nearing the end of his training to be an official assistance dog to Vanessa.
Vanessa and Jack were presented their award and a cheque for £5,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for charity Border Terrier Welfare, the charity that rescued Jack. The four other finalists also received £1,000 for their chosen dog charity for getting through to the prestigious final.
Speaking about their win, Vanessa: “I am in absolute disbelief and am so proud of Jack. He had such a bad start in life and it took me a year to train him, but this just shows what love and patience can do. He is training to be an official assistance dog, he helps to raise awareness of mental health issues and he is my family. I don’t know what I would do without him.”
Geri Horner, said: “Before Vanessa, people had given up on Jack, but Vanessa never did, and Jack never gave up on Vanessa, which makes this such a beautiful partnership. This competition epitomises what Crufts is about – we care for dogs, and they care for us as well.”
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club secretary, said: “Huge congratulations to Vanessa and Jack for their incredible win – their story is so moving and inspiring, it really shows how dogs can transform the lives of their owners.
“We have had some amazing finalists for this year’s Friends for Life competition, and they all should be extremely proud to have got through to the final five. Each finalist has helped to change and improve the quality of their owner’s life, showing unwavering loyalty and they are a great example of the incredible difference that dogs can make to people’s lives.”
The five dogs which made the 2018 final were selected by a panel of judges from the Kennel Club, where they were chosen for the lifetime of love and loyalty they give to their owners and for the way that they have irrevocably changed their lives.