A disabled former Navy petty officer from Salford and his dog Kizzie, a Labrador Retriever, have been nominated for the prestigious Friends for Life award at Crufts later this month.
The Kennel Club’s Friends for Life competition has been running since 2006 and celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have truly earned the title of man’s best friend, through bravery, support or companionship.
Kizzie, who will be one of over 26,000 happy, healthy dogs at Birmingham’s NEC, has turned around the life of Steve Brookes who was left paralysed from the waist down after being hit by a car and thrown from his motorbike in 2008.
Before this Steve – who attended Hope High School as a youngster - had been in the Royal Navy since the age of 17, working with the Royal Marines and earning the coveted Green Beret in the process, and found life in a wheelchair hard to adjust to.
But after being partnered with Kizzie through Canine Partners, offering training assistance dogs for people with disabilities, Steve admits his life is back on track.
“Kizzie has really changed my life for the better and I really don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for her,” said Steve, who now lives in Fareham.
“After my accident and rehab it was hard to accept that I couldn’t do what I was doing before and it was quite embarrassing have to rely on a carer and my mood was obviously quite low.
“But as soon as we met within five minutes she has been trained to take off my trainer and after initially being quite sceptical I was like ‘wow, these dogs are fantastic and can really help me.
“Even then I was still a bit apprehensive still about bringing a dog into a family because I have two young daughters Grace and Emily and I wasn’t sure how a dog would fit into our family life.
“But they both love her and she has been fantastic not just with helping my confidence but with all of the family and she has been brilliant ever since.”
Four other heart-warming stories have also been nominated for the award but to vote for Steve and Kizzie, you need to call the Kennel Club Friends for Life competition line on 0844 646 0205, with lines closing at 7.30pm on Sunday 11th March 2012.
And Clare Balding, host of More4’s coverage of Crufts 2012, paid tribute to the fantastic achievements nominated for the award.
“The Crufts Friends for Life competition shows what a positive difference dogs make to people, from saving lives to giving them a purpose to carry on, and illustrates their intuition and the lengths they will go to in order to look after their owners and carers,” she said.
“As a society of dog loving owners, we have a duty to recognise, respect and raise awareness of this, and give back to them all we can.”
Calls cost 5p from a BT land line. Calls from other networks may vary and from mobiles will cost considerably more. Details and terms at channel4.com/crufts. Voting closes at 7.30pm on Sunday March 11 2012.