Dogs have always been described as ‘man’s best friend’.
Now a life-saving cocker spaniel has been nominated for a top award thanks to his devotion to his sick owner.
Anita Castellina, 63, put forward husband Laurence, 65, and pet pooch Freddie for the Kennel Club’s Giving Longevity Through Assistance award for the bond they have developed over the past four years.
Mr Castellina, who lives in Cleveleys, is deaf and also suffers a medical condition which sees his blood pressure drop rapidly, putting pressure on his heart.
But in Freddie, the former engineer has his own orange roan cocker spaniel carer.
Freddie can recognise the early signs of his owner’s condition worsening and is able to fetch medical equipment to keep Mr Castellina safe until help arrives.
The way Freddie and Laurence have changed each other’s lives is really something special
And Mrs Castellina has seen first-hand just how vital the relationship is.
Freddie was trained with the help of charity Dog Aid to help Mr Castellina.
The organisation provides help dogs for the elderly and disabled, specially trained to deal with their owner’s personal difficulties.
Now the pair are nominees for the award category of the Eukanuba Friends for Life award at Crufts – the world’s largest dog show.
And Mrs Castellina feels it is the bare minimum Freddie deserves after his life-changing impact in the world.
“The way Freddie and Laurence have changed each other’s lives is really something special,” she said.
“He was struggling for confidence before, not wanting to leave the house too much but when you’ve got a pet there that you can truly rely on, it’s quite magical.
“He’s so attentive, knows exactly what is needed and when and we’re all very fortunate, so to be able to get recognition for the work he has done – I can’t really believe it at all!”
As well as the life-saving work Freddie has done, he also makes day-to-day life for the couple that little bit easier following his training with Dog Aid professional Elaine Fairhurst.
But it’s also the fun that’s had at home that makes a big difference for the Castellinas.
Now the family will be hoping for a trip out for the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life showpiece on Sunday March 12 at Birmingham’s NEC arena.
The Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition 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.
And as well as the personal satisfaction it would bring both her and her husband, Mrs Castellina believes it will be the perfect way to pay their thanks to Dog Aid for their initial training.
“Freddie reminds me of comedian Eric Morecambe – he does all this wonderful stuff but is so cheeky too, it’s fantastic,” said Mrs Castellina.
“His ability is just superb, he can completely dry the wet room, something he seemed to teach himself from very early on, and the way he just observes in his training and picks things up is quickly.
“The trainers are amazing, they do some fantastic work and being nominated is recognition for all of that.”