A dog lover from Bigton says that making the final in the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition at Crufts 2016 would mean the world to her after her special pooch was nominated for a spot in the contest.
Gen Robertson’s Border collie Ben was put forward for the award after her teenage daughter Harriet witnessed the positive impact the two-year-old canine had on her mother’s mental health.
The Eukanuba Friends for Life competition celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have earned the title of man’s best friend through bravery, support or companionship.
After being diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, 45-year-old Ms Robertson was forced to quit her career as a primary school teacher, and struggled for years through psychotic episodes and spells in hospital.
But since Ben’s arrival into her life she has experienced a dramatic reduction in episodes, and credits her beloved pup with saving her life.
“I wasn’t looking for a dog,” she said. “My daughter had been puppy sitting this particular litter and she kept asking me to come and see them.
“Ben galloped across to me and sat on my foot, so we brought him home.
“He has changed my life completely – I have gone from being a total recluse and someone who was completely broken, to someone who can leave the house and make friends.
“One of the symptoms of my illness is over-tiredness as it can be the trigger to a psychotic episode, so it’s very important that I take my medication and get to bed at the right time, and Ben has taught himself to get me to bed.
“When I’m suffering from a psychosis he won’t leave my side, because he knows I’m unwell.
“Before 2015 I had been having three or four episodes a year with each episode lasting severally months, but last year I only had two episodes which has been a dramatic decline for me and life has become so much better.
“My life would be appalling without Ben. I don’t even think I would still be here – he’s a very special dog.
“He chases away the darkness in my mind and makes me face each day with determination to survive. I am a better mum because of him.
“It would mean the world to me to make the final because I think it would help people realise what incredible psychiatric support dogs can give.”
Such has been the impact on her life, Ms Robertson and Harriet are now campaigning for the recognition of psychiatric service dogs in the UK after being told they would have to send Ben to America for training.
Ms Robertson and Ben can often be found volunteering at the Shetland Dog Club, and the pair will be hoping to make an appearance at the Eukanuba Friends for Life showpiece on 13th March at Birmingham’s NEC.
Crufts, run by the Kennel Club, is a unique celebration of happy, healthy dogs and will this year be celebrating its 125th anniversary.
Kennel Club spokeswoman Caroline Kisko said: “Gen and Ben are thoroughly deserving of this nomination and the Kennel Club wishes them luck in the Eukanuba Friends for Life competition.
“We have been honoured to hear about the hundreds of dogs throughout the UK who are making a profound difference to people’s lives.
“Crufts is the world’s best known dog stage and encourage anybody who thinks that their dog’s loyalty, friendship or bravery has made a difference to their life, or the lives of others, to get in touch.
“Each and every one of the finalists has helped to change and save lives in their own unique and special way.”