UK

Amazing Dog Tales: Disabled Boy's Best Friend, Carers' Cupid And Afghan Hound Recognised By Crufts Award

21/02/2013 15:30 GMT | Updated 21/02/2013 17:01 GMT

A three-legged dog who helped turn the life of a disabled seven-year-old boy around has been nominated for a Crufts award for heroic dogs.

Haatchi, an Anatolian German Shepherd, had to have his back left leg and tail amputated after someone tied him to a railway line and he was hit by a train.

He was saved by the RSPCA but in a second stroke of bad luck, his first foster family's dog attacked him.

However a charity for German Shepherds stepped in and shortly afterwards he was found on Facebook by the family of seven-year-old Owen Hoskins, who has the rare genetic condition Schwartz Jampel Syndrome, which causes his muscles to be permanently tense.

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Owen said he loves his new friend so much

And the young boy, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, is full of praise for Haatchi, who he says is his best friend.

"I used to be scared of strangers, then Haatchi came along and now I'm not and that's how he changed my life.

"I didn't really meet many others with disabilities and felt like the odd one out, which made me really sad.

"But when I saw Haatchi and saw how strong he was, even though he only had three legs, I became stronger myself.

"I love him so much."

Owen's dad, Will Howkins, said the pair have been joined at the hip since they met around a year ago.

"From the moment we brought Haatchi home he came into Owen's room in the morning and just very gently nuzzled up to Owen, not knowing anything about him.

"It seemed like there was a magical connection between the two of them where they knew something was different between each other - Owen didn't know what was wrong with Haatchi and vice versa.

"And since then they have just been joined at the hip.

"When Owen's at school, Haatchi is waiting for him to come home and they are always cuddling up on the sofa together."

Owen, who was withdrawn and scared to leave the house before he had Haatchi, has seen his life turn around.

Haatchi is among the final five dog heroes who will compete in the public vote for the Friends for Life award at Crufts 2013.

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The finalists line up for the camera

Also nominated are Max and Ziggy, two assistance dogs who helped a couple cement their love for each other, after originally meeting through their previous helper dogs.

Sue Harvey, who uses a wheelchair, divorced her previous husband and moved into a bungalow on her own.

The 63-year-old had a disability caused by several life-threatening conditions including spinal surgery, brain tumour and double bilateral mastectomies leading to spinal bacterial meningitis.

One day when she was going out to get a loaf of bread she got soaked in the rain but could not get her raincoat off.

After three hours of struggling she asked a passer-by to help her get it off but when she got home she said her heart was broken and she "didn't want to survive".

When her son found his mother fully clothed in bed the next day, he told her off and then alerted her to the Dogs For Disabled charity.

Not long afterwards, she was given an assistance dog called Inka.

She was then left heartbroken by her premature death. However not before she met Byron Harvey, who had been in a wheelchair since boyhood due to polio and was devastated by the tragic loss of his childhood sweetheart. It was only assistance dog, Isis, that kept him going.

Sue and Byron were bought together because of the link between their two original assistance dogs, who were sisters.

Their friendship blossomed into love and then marriage in 2008, and now they and their current dogs Max and Ziggy show a love and care for one another that can scarcely be matched. Bryon said: "There are two things to be thankful for to Dogs For Disabled - these wonderful dogs and I've found a second wife.

"Life can't get any better than that, can it?"

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The couple and their assistance dogs

Isis is retired and still lives with the couple and their assistance dogs, Max and Ziggy, who they credit with strengthening their love for each other.

But Mr and Mrs Harvey's dogs, from Thame in Oxfordshire, have stiff competition in the running for the prize.

Also nominated is Brin, a Koochee Tiger mix, who saved the lives of two soldiers in Helmand province in Afghanistan after alerting them to a hidden bomb in 2010.

Soon after, he was captured by the Taliban, but was found and saved during a daring mission later that year by Afghanistan Special Forces.

But his plight was not over and he faced being left behind and killed when his unit flew home.

A campaign to save him went worldwide and he was brought back to the UK by Nowzad Dogs Charity.

Searching and tracking skills were the forte of another nominee - Janus, a Malinois Belgian Shepherd police dog with 433 arrests to his name.

He is now nearly 10 years old and is enjoying a well-earned retirement but in his time in service his successes included uncovered £5,000 stolen in a security van heist and on another occasion sniffed out more than £10,000 worth of stolen power tools.

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Pc Dan Thomas from Birmingham, with Janus

Pc Dan Thomas, from Birmingham, now keeps Janus as a pet.

He said: "The bond between a working dog and handler is amazing, at times he has depended on me but more often I have depended on him when he's come to my aid, fended off violent offenders and located countless suspects who were evading capture.

"He'll be given the very best care and attention in retirement and loved for the rest of his days."

The final nominee is Daisy, a bull mastiff, who brought joy to a Scunthorpe family who lost a son and a dog to tumours in the same year.

Tracey Marshall, 40, tragically lost her six-year-old son Jack in October 2011, after a two year battle with a brain tumour.

Just months before, the family's bull mastiff, Louis, had to be put to sleep after being diagnosed with a tumour as well.

But Daisy has helped the family in ways they could not have imagined.

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Sally and Brin

"Daisy helped to bring love and laughter back into our home and without her I don't know how we would have had the strength to go on.

"People underestimate just how much healing the love of a dog can give, in even the most tragic of times."

The winner will be presented with the award on 10 March, the final night of Crufts, which will be televised live by Channel 4.