Sponsored by Pets at Home
This award honours the unique relationships and companionship provided by animals, and/or the achievements of individuals or organisations engaged with animals that support and empower members of the Armed Forces community. The winner of this award will be chosen through a public vote.
Which of our three incredible finalists will inspire you to vote for them? Read the articles, watch the videos and cast your vote. Voting goes live from 19:30, Monday 4th July. Voting will then close at 23:59 on Sunday 17th July. You can only vote once so make it count and spread the word!
This award is generously sponsored once again by Pets at Home, the country’s most loved pet supplies retailer.
“At Pets at Home, we understand what a positive impact pet ownership can have on people’s lives and wellbeing. This particular category not only goes through the rigorous internal judging process but the chosen three finalists then go through to a public vote. We’re extremely proud to sponsor the Animal Partnership Category in celebration of these exceptional animals, who provide invaluable support to their owners and the wider veteran community.” – Sarah Woodward, Commercial Marketing Manager, Pets at Home
Pets at Home sell pet products including food, toys, bedding, medication, accessories and pets. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
In terms of the finalists, well of course dogs are always popular in this category, and we have three stand-out partnerships to celebrate:
- Service Dogs UK
- Stable Lives
- Richard Mearns and Assistance Dog Ziggy
Richard Mearns and Assistance Dog Ziggy
Richard and his Assistance Dog Ziggy are quite simply the finest example of what can be achieved by a Veteran living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with the support of a great dog.
Richard holds down an important job, campaigns tirelessly for the rights of access for assistance dogs and still finds the time to support other Veterans. He has become a trustee of The Assistance Dog Assessment Association; he is an Ambassador for The Veterans Charity.
Richard was a panellist at a performance of Theatre of War. He has provided advice to Bravehound on assistance dog issues, and has spoken about PTSD to the actors and producers at the National Theatre and delivered talks on his experiences.
“Richard and Ziggy have infectious positivity and compassion for others, whether talking to an individual or addressing 2000 people via a Zoom panel discussion.”
Always ready to help others, Richard advocates for access rights for assistance dogs. He challenges access refusals and encourages a level of respect of the public. The impact of their work in raising public awareness around this issue is huge.
Most of all, Richard and Ziggy have achieved what we perhaps all aspire to – a good life, being an active member of society, being able to contribute, help others, and be happy.
“Richard has given a great deal of his time to advise us at BRAVEHOUND on best practice as a military charity providing assistance dogs and support to other Veterans. The success of BRAVEHOUND is without doubt hugely due to the confidence we have in the advice we have been given and the example that is set by this extraordinary man and his incredible assistance dog.”
Stable Lives provides equine courses for military veterans and their families dealing with the effects of mental health trauma. The charity provides a calm place to rest, relax and reconnect to society. The unique side of its work is that it uses horses and ponies who have been rehabilitated from physical and mental abuse.
Stable Lives was developed by Carrie Byrom and the team as they personally witnessed the devastating effect that PTSD can have on an individual and their whole family.
“Each veteran who attends is assigned their own rescue pony for the duration of their six week course, during which time they learn to build trust, respect and resilience together, as they work through an industry recognised qualification.”
Examples of these remarkable animals include Slinky, who joined Stable Lives after being rescued from a tiny barn, where he’d been locked in with 100 other animals for four years. Children and adults marvel at his story and see the transformation from extreme fear to hope and resilience.
Fimbo is blind in one eye and helps veterans with physical challenges, showing how he overcame his blindness through specific training to become an amazing pony used for disabled riders.
Willow teaches about anxiety and aggressive behaviour. During her rehabilitation, she would attack when she was frightened, yet with careful training, she learned to stay calm and build trust. Through hearing her story and using her within workshops, she teaches children and adults these lessons too.
“If we spoke directly to people about anxiety, aggression and poor life choices, their guards would go up; but through the ponies’ stories and camaraderie, lives are changed and hope is found.”
Service Dogs UK
The Service Dogs UK programme is the only internationally accredited organisation in the UK to partner Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with rescue dogs. Run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, they have worked tirelessly to transform the lives of over 35 Veterans.
These Veterans report life-changing benefits; they are able to do things they previously thought were impossible, often including leaving their homes. Some were isolated with no support network or friends, yet the charity has given them the confidence to go out in public through regular ‘field trips’ in the community and to socialise with other Veterans with PTSD.
The incredible dogs are trained to interrupt nightmares, intervene when a Veteran is experiencing flashbacks or panic attacks, lead the Veteran to safety or position around them to provide optimal support. They can also retrieve medication and recognise and interrupt depressive episodes.
“Sleep and night terrors are so very much better, and the fact I am now off all antidepressants and sleeping tablets is incredibly special.”
Uniquely, the charity uses mainly rescue dogs who may not have had the best experiences or a happy history, so the bond in each pair’s relationship is forged from kindness, teamwork and understanding, and becomes the platform for their success and a new, more positive life together.
“Having an assistance dog has been a game-changer for me. Bella has enabled me to start living my life again and doing things that I genuinely thought I’d not be able to do again due to my PTSD. I can’t thank Service Dogs UK enough for this opportunity and their support.”