Autistic boy hoping Crufts will honour his 'guardian angel'

Tracey Kandohla
Caddie, the Labrador Retriever assistance dog, and his 13 year old owner Joel Sayer - COPYRIGHT : JULIAN SIMMONDS

A 13-year-old who suffers from autism is hoping the Labrador Retriever he calls "my guardian angel" will be hailed Crufts dog hero champion today.

Joel Sayer told how faithful Caddie "calms me down and keeps me safe" as he accompanies him everywhere from the cinema and swimming pool to the dentist and even the bathroom.

Joel from Newquay, Cornwall, has been given a new lease of life thanks to his incredible autism assistance four-legged friend.

The six-year-old animal has been selected as one of four finalists at Crufts - Credit: Julian Simmonds for the Telegraph

The teenager, who also has sleep apnoea, ADHT and a speech impediment, struggled to leave home or speak to people before Caddie partnered him four years ago.

Now the six-year-old animal has been selected as one of four finalists at Crufts in the dog hero competition, in the Giving the Best Start in Life category.

Joel told the Telegraph: "I entered Caddie as a thank you to him and so he could be recognised. I'm very excited and overwhelmed that he could win the title.

He is my guardian angel. "He makes me more confident, gives me courage and keeps me happy." Joel's mother Janet told how the dog was her unpredictable son's "constant companion" and "makes his world calmer and safer."

Mrs Sayer, 52, a carer said: "Caddie is a constant presence in Joel's life. When we're out the dog wears a special jacket and my son a belt linked to a lead I take and a handle he takes. It stops Joel skipping into the road and staying out of danger."

Caddie is a finalist in the Giving the Best Start in Life category - Credit: Julian Simmonds for the Telegraph

Joe is a pupil at a normal school but attends a special needs department, which his mum and Caddie drop him off at and collect him from.

Mrs Sayer added: "Now with Caddie by Joel's side I can take occasionally taken my eyes off Joel. The dog goes everywhere with him, even to bed and the bathroom and watches him brush his teeth!"

Aspiring blind footballer Nathan Edge told how his finalist hero dog had helped him after he lost his sight four years ago and "felt my future had been ripped away."

Student Nathan, 22, who suffered from juvenile arthritis aged six which inflamed his eyes leading to complete blindness said guide dog Hudson "has saved my life and been beside me on my emotional journey."

Nathan, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was forced to drop out if a computer science course but is now studying massage therapy in Hereford while training to be in the England blind football team.

First held in 1891, Crufts is said to be the largest show of its kind in the world - Credit: Getty

One day he dreams of becoming a Paralympian with Hudson's help. He said: "Hudson's been my motivation and inspiration. If he wins it will be the icing on the cake."

Another inspiring finalist is Browser, the Bull which saved the life of his multiple sclerosis owner Sally, 26, when she collapsed unconscious at home in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.  

The fourth competitor is military dog Charlie, an expert at sniffing out explosives. He is now deployed on his  fourth operational tour in Afghanistan with the British Army saving lives on the front line.

The champion will be decided today by the public vote.

Kellie Ceccarellu, Veterinary Traning Manager for Eukanuba, premium pet nutrition experts, said: "It showcases the impact dogs can have on our life and celebrates the unique relationship people have with their dogs."

Thousands of the nation's favourite dogs went through their paces on Saturday - the busiest ever third day of Crufts.

Thirty seven breeds of gun dogs, ranging from the most popular Labrador to spaniels, setters and the rarest Curly Coated Retriever, which in now feared to becoming extinct, were shown by proud owners.

Organisers of the world's biggest dog show, now in its 126th year, vowed it would be the biggest and best.

A spokesperson for the event at Birmingham's NEC said: "It's been particularly busy with competitors and spectators. Everyone loves  Gun Dogs. They are Britain's favourite dogs."

Canine competitors will be battling it out in the hope of winning the coveted Best In Show on Sunday.

 

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