Friends For Life is a competition that began in 2005. Held during the Crufts Dog Show in the United Kingdom, it “recognizes and celebrates the difference that dogs can make to their owners lives, be it through bravery, support or companionship.”
The winner of the Friends for Life Competition is 11-year-old Harriet Ringsell. Harriet was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was just 11 months old. She has very restricted use of her legs and is only able to walk with a frame (walker) and spends most of her time in a wheelchair. When her family adopted Yepa for Harriet, her life changed forever. The two bonded immediately. Whenever Harriet sat on the floor, Yepa would sit between her legs and stay very close to her. When Harriet used her walker, Yepa would trot along beside her, never pulling her or changing directions.
Harriet has trained Yepa, a Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla, in basic obedience and for gundog work. She loves to ride on her Dad’s shoulders during Yepa’s field training exercises. Harriet has also taught Yepa to swim in the family’s pool. In the water, Harriet is free from the restrictions of her legs and is able to interact fully with Yepa.
Yepa has won numerous awards, including “Best Puppy in Breed” at her first Championship Show and a first place win in the Bracco Italiano Society’s Puppy Working Test.
Harriet’s parents have watched her confidence soar since Yepa joined the family. She stays with Harriet if she falls and waits for her Mother to come to assist. The HWV will stay on Harriet’s bed if she is not feeling well, and will comfort her owner if she is upset. She constantly keeps her eye on Harriet. At the Crufts Competition, Yepa could be found at the side of Harriet’s wheelchair and there was no prouder person at Crufts than Harriet as her pet competed.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “Friends for Life was developed to give recognition to all the dogs that really deserve to be rewarded for what they give their owners and others in their lives. Since we began the competition, we have received some amazing entries, highlighting the importance of dogs as man’s best friend, with wonderful tales of bravery, support and companionship. There are many examples of dogs showing unfailing loyalty and spirit in their constant wish to help, and this competition demonstrates the incredible difference that dogs can make to people’s lives.”
Through her tears, Harriet said, “Thank you so much for voting – I’m just so glad that Yepa means so much to you as she does to me. She’s just the best friend in the world.”