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Gentle giant Simba is PAT Dog of the Year

IN Pets As Therapy’s silver anniversary year, a Leonberger show dog Simba called was acclaimed last weekend as the charity’s ‘PAT Dog of the Year 2008’ .

As all roads led to Discover Dogs and Earl's Court last weekend, there were 150 dedicated enthusiasts who headed to Buxton, Derbyshire to celebrate the Pets As Therapy's 25th anniversary.

Welcoming the guests and competitors to the Barcelo Palace Hotel, Chief Executive Mrs Maureen Hennis introduced the six finalists all of which were featured on the audio-visual screen.
Simba was voted ‘PAT Dog of the Year 2008’ by a celebrity panel that included Lisa Riley (Emmerdale and You’ve Been Framed), Pam St. Clement (Eastenders), Pauline Fleming (Coronation Street), James Martin (celebrity chef), Roy Hudd (all-round entertainer), Roy Barraclough (actor, including Coronation Street) and the editor of Your’s magazine, Valery McConnell, together with Your's readers.

Simba, and his owner, Ann Burrell from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, have been regular PAT visitors to patients and residents at local establishments St Michaels Hospice, Cornerways Care Home, Larchfield Manor Residential Home and The Stroke Association Communication Group. As if this weren’t enough to keep Simba fully occupied, he and Ann have also spent time working with children who suffer from debilitating animal-related phobias.


The good work that he does in providing much needed comfort, pleasure and therapeutic relief was underlined by the many nominations that came from staff as well as patients and residents at all the establishments Simba visits.

Simba’s owner, Ann Burrell said: “I’m absolutely overwhelmed, and so very proud of Simba. He’s my soulmate. I can’t believe he’s been voted PAT Dog of the Year. All of the finalists were wonderful and any one of them deserved to be chosen.”

Simba was presented with his award by Roy Barraclough, Valery McConnell and Tony Parkinson, Managing Director of Pets As Therapy sponsor HiLife Pet Foods. His award comprised a cheque for £500, three months’ supply of HiLife dog food and a specially engraved piece of crystal.
Five runners-up, who each received awards of £100, a month’s supply of HiLife dog food and a specially engraved piece of crystal, were Tibetan Spaniel Ellie, owned by Cheryl Vials from Northwood, Middlesex; crossbreed Becky, owned by Margaret McKnight from Bangor, County Down; Cocker Spaniel Gimli, owned by Julie Hargrave from Hinckley, Leicestershire; Shetland Sheepdog Robbie, owned by Shirley and Ron Davies from Oldham, Lancashire and Working Sheepdog Ben, owned by Sara Gilding from Guildford, Surrey.

At the silver anniversary celebrations, Maureen Hennis, Pets As Therapy’s Chief Executive told the guests: “This year’s PAT Dog of the Year has been phenomenal. The nominations, mainly from health care professionals, have rightly sung the praises of PAT dogs working in the community and underline the value of the work that Pets As Therapy volunteers and their PAT dogs have been undertaking since our foundation in 1983. PAT dogs are true heroes.”

Nominations for ‘PAT Dog of the Year 2008’ came from medical staff, carers, patients and residents of hospitals, hospices, residential homes, special needs schools and other similar establishments throughout the country.


For the first time this year's event took the form of an evening event starting at 5.30pm with a bucks fizz reception followed by the PAT Dog of the Year awards. Just prior to the wonderful meal enjoyed by all there was a charity auction conducted by the Master of Ceremonies Mr Ian Layfield which offered 14 unique items all of which raised by money for the charity.

Immediately after dinner chairman of the PAT Dogs board of directors Mr Brian Howard MBE spoke briefly of the work of the charity over the last 25 years later paying a tribute to the drive and vision of Chief Executive Mrs Maureen Hennis.

Cutting the 25th anniversary cake was PAT Dogs Honorary President Sir Peter Baldwin KCB who was a guest at the event with Lady Baldwin.

Keeping the profile of the charity at the right level throughout the year were the various rounds of the PAT Dogs Stakes held at championship show throughout the year. Judging the final was Mr Martin Freeman secretary of Driffield championship show and after running the rule over the 15 competitors the red rosette was handed to the fawn and white Greyhound Ch Mistweave Making Music with Ransley owned by Mr & Mrs P W Barlett of Sevington, Kent. Runner up was the BSD (Tervueren) Mr & Mrs Such's Ir Ch Norlyght Z'Ha'Dum.

As the pedigree dog comes under some pressure from all sides some media commentators and those with axes to grind would have benefitted from the many positive stories heard at this event. Pets As Therapy’s 4,000 volunteers and their PAT dogs bring much-needed therapeutic care, smiles and friendship to over 114,000 people every week.
They are the unsung heroes of the world of dogs.

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