A therapy dog and his handler who support young patients at Southampton Children’s Hospital are in the running for a prestigious award at this year’s Crufts event.
Eight-year-old golden retriever Leo and owner Lyndsey Uglow are shortlisted in the Friends for Life competition in the children’s champion category with the winner to be decided by a public vote.
The award celebrates the unique relationship people have with their dogs and Leo’s category recognises a dog that has supported and had a positive impact on a child.
They face competition from pooches in four other categories – rescue dog, best friends, working dog and hero support dog – with the winner’s chosen charity receiving £5,000 from The Kennel Club Charitable Trust and the other finalists receiving £1,000.
Crufts is an annual event organised by The Kennel Club to celebrate every aspect of the role dogs play in people’s lives, with 20,000 set to compete for the coveted ‘best in show’ title this year.
The event, which will be covered by Channel 4, runs from 5 to 8 March at The NEC Birmingham and the Friends for Life winner will be announced at 5.20pm on the final day in the main arena.
Leo has been visiting adults and children on the wards since 2012, initially starting as a Pets as Therapy (PAT) representative through the voluntary services team at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.
Since then he has received numerous awards – including multiple bone-shaped volunteering certificates – was invited to represent PAT at the House of Lords and featured on Channel 4’s Supervet Summer in the Field with Professor Noel Fitzpatrick.
He is now part of the animal assisted intervention (AAI) team led by Lyndsey at Southampton Children’s Hospital who visit children to help create positive memories of the healthcare environment.
This involves work to reduce anxiety among those waiting for tests, investigations, examinations and surgery.
Lyndsey was AAI adviser to the Royal College of Nursing for its Working with Dogs in Healthcare Settings protocol with national guidelines published in May 2018.
She also led a pioneering study into the use of AAI at Southampton Children’s Hospital with the results published in the British Journal of Nursing last April.
‘I would just like to say a huge thank you to the teams and individuals who nominated us, it is a real honour,” said Lyndsey.
‘Most of all, thanks to the parents and patients who have allowed us to share the special moments of the human-animal bond during their healthcare journey.’
The Friends for Life competition video features all of the AAI therapy dogs and provides some insight into the work they do. To view Leo and Lyndsey’s Friends for Life video and to place your vote, visit www.crufts.org.uk/whats-on/friends-for-life/.