People’s Pet Awards winners – life-saving dogs to cat’s miraculous recovery

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Every pet owner thinks their cat, dog, fish or whatever they may have is the best out there – and of course they're right!

But some of our loveable animals are just that extra bit special, with some saving lives and others going through impossible odds.

Loose Women star Judi Love is hosting the first ever Mirror People's Pet Awards, and it will be available to stream on YouTube on December 14 at 7pm.

She said: "I'm absolutely thrilled to be hosting the first ever Mirror People's Pet Awards. The winners are amazing, and I've been crying and laughing in equal measure when I've been finding out all about them.

"I know it's going to be an incredible show. We'll have a tiny horse on stage, what's not to like?"

The awards are being held in association with pet food, treat and toy brand Webbox, and the charity partner Dogs Trust.

And it's not to be missed when it airs on YouTube, as these adorable and amazing winning pets prove.

Caring animal of the year – Flora & Kin

Robert, from London, had been suffering from blackouts that his doctors couldn't explain for 12 years.

The poor man felt suicidal because of the life-threatening condition and was too scared to go out in case he lost consciousness, and was eventually diagnosed with cardiac syncope which causes blackouts and atonal epilepsy, which causes seizures.

Akita Flora went to live with Robert as a puppy and his life immediately transformed.

Robert, 61, was finally able to go out again as Flora could warn him when an attack was about to happen.

Amazing Flora blocks his path when she senses a collapse coming and take his hand, pulling him down to suggest he should lie down.

Once she even managed to open the flat door and get help from a neighbour.

In hospital, she sensed another attack and alerted medics by barking.

Sadly, Flora died earlier this year, however Robert got a second Akita called Kin to join his family beforehand.

Kin has stepped up and taken on the baton that Flora left behind.

Robert said: "Having that warning gives me a few moments to get to safety, whether I’m at the edge of a road, in a park or walking by a riverbank.

"Flora and Kin gave me my life back."

Caring animal of the year – Wilson

Shetland pony Wilson was a hit with the residents of a rehabilitation care home as soon as he walked in.

His owners Elaine and John Sangster have since taken him to visit countless sick and disabled children, as well as elderly patients, all across Scotland.

They now own 15 miniature therapy ponies, but Wilson, who is just knee-high, is a favourite.

West Lothian resident Elaine said: "Wilson is such a character, people always want to hug and kiss him. We’d been keeping miniature Shetlands as pets for around ten years but he is particularly special. We even took Wilson on our honeymoon as he was too young to be left alone.

“Wilson is the reason why we went on that first visit to the care home. It made us realise that we wanted to share the joy and love that we got from the ponies and do this full time. As soon as we made that decision, we were inundated with requests. People don’t see Wilson and his friends as horses in a field but rather a pet.”

Special recognition – Dr Daniel Allen & Debbie Matthews

Dr Daniel Allen and Debbie Matthews have been working tirelessly to have pet abduction recognised as a crime.

Dog theft has sharply risen during the pandemic but prosecutions were near impossible as the law still classes most pets as property.

Daniel, an animal geographer at Keele University, decided to do something about it and teamed up with Debbie and her colleagues from the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) to launch a petition to get the law changed, getting 100,000 signatures in a few months.

Then in July of this year, it was debated in Parliament and the government pledged to change the law to make pet abduction a crime.

Daniel said: "When the government pledged five-year sentences for animal cruelty, it took over five years for legislation to actually be put in place. Think how many dogs could be stolen if we have to wait five years for this law to come into effect. It would simply be too long to wait.”

Debbie, 66, has been campaigning for a change in the law since 2014 after her own dogs were snatched in 2006.

She was eventually reunited with her two Yorkshire Terriers after a TV appeal.

Special recognition – Tuks Law

Mioritic Shepherd dog Tuk was rehomed in the UK after being rescued from the streets of Romania as a five-week-old puppy.

The adoption went wrong and the owners advertised him on Gumtree, despite signing a contract that they wouldn't pass him on.

At 18 months old and healthy, he was tragically put to sleep by a vet who did not scan his original chip – as they would've found that the person who requested euthanasia was not the registered keeper, and the rescue charity would have guaranteed him a home for life.

After his sad death, campaigners Sue Williams and Dawn Ashley launched the Tuks Law campaign, so no healthy animal could be destroyed by a vet without first scanning the pet's microchip to confirm the person asking for euthanasia was authorised to do so.

In a matter of months they had 121,000 signatures and although it was introduced in Parliament last year, no law has yet passed.

Sue, 51, is not giving up though, and said: "Tuks Law is the only campaign calling for mandatory scanning prior to euthanasia. Rescued animals with rescue back up should not be losing their lives whilst an option is in place that can save them and pets with owners should not be losing their lives without being scanned first. We always remember that Tuk had to die so others could be saved.”

Animal hero – Chris Kent

Chris set up the K9 Project in 2008, bringing together her experience of community and social work with her expertise in animal behaviour.

The programme includes workshops for children and youngsters lacking confidence.

One participant, James, 10, told his teacher: "My life is just so much better with these dogs in it."

Meanwhile, Take The Lead helps older children and young adults, while Walk Your Worries Away is for young people struggling with their emotional wellbeing.

Since the pandemic, Chris has focussed on working with young people struggling with their anxiety and refuse to leave the house.

She takes people out on walks with her rescue dogs in their local surroundings to experience nature.

And she's working with younger kids, many with additional needs, who have become scared of dogs since lockdown.

Chris said: "Most of the children I see are over 11. We try to build their confidence and learn techniques for managing anxiety. It’s about doing it step by step and just getting them to leave their homes is a huge leap.”

Webbox Joy of Pets Award – Minty

Cat Minty has just three legs after being hit by a car, but he's a carer for little Connor Raven, seven, who has severe learning difficulties and other medical conditions which make it tough for him to stay mobile.

Minty loves to be by Connor and provides comfort and encouragement when he needs it most.

He goes to Connor when things are difficult, rubbing his face on his hand and helping him when he was learning to climb the stairs.

Connor's mum Siobhan said: "Connor can be very loud, and his medical conditions mean he’s very wobbly and clumsy. Many pets would understandably keep their distance, but not Minty – when Connor is at his most in need, Minty is there like a shot.”

Rescue Cat of the Year – Fire Cat

Fire Cat was rescued when police officers found him in the road near a bonfire with horrific burns and a slim chance of survival.

The poor kitten's lips were burnt away, his eyes were singed and the skin on his face began peeling away.

But veterinary nurse Jenni Gretton decided to try treating him, bathing him throughout the day and putting Vaseline on his wounds, and after an operation to save his eyes and dress his wounds he pulled through.

Jenni started an online campaign to raise money for his treatment, and well-wishers had donated £2,000 just six hours later, and later adopted him, naming him Fire Cat.

She said: "We still don’t know who his owners were, what happened to him or whether it was malicious or not."

Dogs Trust Dog of the Year – Galahad

Galahad was the biggest dog the Dogs Trust had ever cared for, at the size of a baby elephant.

The 100kg mastiff struggled to find a permanent home, with several owners trying but unable to cope.

Now, the five-year-old pooch has a happy ending as he settled down with a family in Kent.

He is now a great friend to Matthew Dimmock, 15, who is autistic.

Matthew's dad Colin said: "He’s fantastic – he sits, gives you his paw, he comes up and gives you a kiss, he’s met cyclists, tractors, cars, other dogs, and is brilliant with our son Matthew – he likes everything about Galahad apart from the slobber!"

Team Dogs Hero Animal – Hel

Husky Hel was on a walk with her owner when she found a baby boy, a few hours old, wrapped in a blanket, and gently tried to wake him up.

Owner Terry Walsh, 64, said he'd have walked on if Hel hadn't alerted him, and he said: "Suddenly I heard this baby cry. I think it was Hel’s gentle nudging and the heat from her body that woke the baby up. I thank the Lord that the baby was alive, that could have been a lot worse. The baby could have been dead. I said to my neighbours, heaven sent Hel to rescue that newborn baby boy."

The little lad, who was named George, is now in foster care.

Inspirational Animal of the Year – Peg

Pegasus was adopted by young soldier Conrad Lewis, who was deployed in Afghanistan.

Conrad told his parents about the stray dog before he was tragically killed by a Taliban sniper in February 2011.

His parents knew they had to look after Pegasus – or Peg – and brought her over in June 2011.

Conrad's dad Tony said: "She’s been a great source of comfort and joy, knowing that Conrad loved her and talked with her. She’s a great companion and makes us smile."

Rescue Dog of the Year – Bella

Belgian Shepherd Bella was tied to a rock and left to drown in a river by cruel owners before she was rescued in January 2020.

Two dog-walkers spotted her struggling and one, Jane Harper, went into the river to rescue her.

Remarkably, Bella pulled through and she was worked with so she could be re-homed.

Then, 15 months later she found a home with a retired couple in the countryside.

She spent a year with her new family, but sadly died last month to old injuries.

People's Pet of the Year – Tao and Oko

Tao lost his eyesight suddenly last year and seemed so low that owner Melanie Jackson got him his own guide dog, Oko.

The dogs immediately bonded and Melanie shared their story online to raise awareness of genetic glaucoma in dogs.

They now have 57,000 online fans.

Melanie said: "Tao was diagnosed with glaucoma – a common eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged – when he was 10. It all happened so fast as he was fine in the morning but in the evening he was shaking his head which suggested he was in pain. Five hours later, he was blind and his eye was removed!”

She added: “They are such a special team they are and l really believe they deserve this award.”

Social Media Sensation – Kratu

Kratu has become a bit of a Crufts sensation, ignoring the obstacle course and running all over the place for three years in a row.

The Carpathian-Mioritic mix rescue dog is also a support animal for owner Tess Eagle Swan.

She has autism and Kratu helps to keep her calm.

Tess said: "It is called deep paw pressure and is very grounding, that stops anxiety for me. I could not imagine life without Kratu, he is simply amazing.”

Kratu is also a regular at the House of Commons, and did virtual dog therapy with primary school kids during lockdown.

The Mirror People’s Pet Awards, in partnership with Dogs Trust and Webbox, will premiere on YouTube on Tuesday 14 December at 7pm.

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