The Guide Dogs of the Year
Guide dog Vaughn has been named Guide Dog of the Year, after transforming the life of his owner Susan Jones with his exceptional work. Susan described him as 'my hero'.
The amazing labrador retriever cross was chosen to win The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association's award, after demonstrating his outstanding loyalty, devotion and work in guiding visually impaired Susan around Warrington, Cheshire.
The prize giving took place at a prestigious event, hosted by Guide Dogs and The Kennel Club, London, on Thursday 8 September.
Susan, 44, also suffers from an occasional loss of hearing, which can strike without warning, often leaving her disorientated. On one occasion, Susan and Vaughn were walking through a shopping centre when, she suddenly lost her hearing. Despite Susan feeling disorientated, Vaughn stopped and nuzzled her hand as if to reassure her. He then pushed Susan's hand with his nose to turn her back in the right direction, before continuing to guide her.
The super dog beat competition from other nominated guide dogs all around the UK. Guide Dogs wants to recognise the extra special achievements and contributions that some guide dogs make to their owners' lives. Vaughn was chosen to be crowned overall winner by a panel of judges, which included representatives from Guide Dogs, the Kennel Club and magazines Our Dogs and Dogs Today.
Susan says: "Without Vaughn being by my side, I would have been stranded, unable to hear or see what was going on around me. I rely on my hearing to orientate myself and to lose it suddenly can be very frightening, but I know that Vaughn is here to help and guide me in the right direction. "It is wonderful to have such a trusting working relationship with Vaughn and he is my hero!"
Guide dog Eamon was named as Life Changing Guide Dog of the Year after making a huge difference to his owner, 19-year-old Stuart Beveridge.
Stuart, from Lochgelly in Fife, grew up only being able to see light and dark and didn't leave his house without his mum or dad at his side. However, Stuart now has the confidence to lead the normal teenage life that he's always wanted - all down to him being partnered with his first guide dog, labrador retriever cross Eamon.
He explains: "Before Eamon came into my life, I didn't like going out on my own as I was scared that I'd get lost; now I know that I am not alone and there is someone looking out for me. Eamon and I are always going out to the shops, to meet my friends or to the football with my dad. "At school I always relied on my friends and teachers to take me everywhere but now Eamon can guide me - there's no excuse for being late!".
The extraordinary bond between Stuart and Eamon is easy to see, as Stuart is forever patting and talking to Eamon - "He's like a best pal - my best friend," says Stuart, "he's so good natured and just brilliant!"
Guide dog Vale was named Exceptional Work Guide Dog of the Year for
helping her owner Nicola Cockburn lead a more independent and varied life. Golden retriever Vale has consistently worked beyond the call of duty as a devoted and willing companion to her owner.
Nicola, 27 and from Llandudno, began touring with a theatre company last year, primarily around Manchester and Glasgow and for each new town they visited, Vale had a new set of routes to learn. Despite there only being limited time to master the new areas, Vale literally took it all in her stride and guided Nicola successfully from hotels to the theatres, local shops, bus stops; and most importantly for Vale, the park for free running.
"Vale is amazing, whenever we travel away from home she copes extremely well with any changes and is always willing to adapt to the new environment. Once we come home she remembers all of our old routes, including back to college when we haven't been for three months - she's amazing".
Timber was named as Heroic Guide Dog of the Year after an act of bravery that saved his owner Arthur Griffiths from being seriously injured by an out of control car.
Arthur and four-year-old Timber, from Crewe in Cheshire, were waiting for Arthur's grandson to come out of Cub Scouts, when Timber began to pull Arthur away from where they were standing. Being totally blind, Arthur did not know what had happened when he suddenly heard a loud bang, until passers by told him that Timber had just saved his life.
What Arthur did not know was that two cars had crashed into each other, with one spinning off the road and landing near to where Arthur and Timber had been standing only seconds earlier.
Arthur commented: "Timber is my hero and undoubtedly saved my life. If he had not moved us both further up the road, I dread to think what would have happened. Afterwards he just returned to normal and guided me home with my grandson - a true professional and my very special guide dog".