This assembly celebrates the friendship that exists between a dog and its ownerAssembly Title: Crufts

Crufts is the world’s largest dog show. Pedigree dogs of all shapes, colours and descriptions took part in last week’s four-day event. Part of the dog show is the very special Friends for Life award. This award celebrates exceptional dogs and their owners and how each has changed the life of the other.

One of the stories is of Royal Marine Sergeant Paul Farthing and his dogs Nowzad and Tali who became his friends whilst on deployment in the notorious Helmand province, Afghanistan. An e-assembly about Paul’s charity Nowzad Dogs was published in January and can be viewed here.

This assembly celebrates the friendship that exists between a dog and its owner.

Resources

Crufts website www.crufts.org.uk has a ‘Gallery’ section which is kept up to date with pictures. Photographs of winners will be available there.

Photograph of Harriet and Yepa receiving the Friends for Life trophy here.

Introduction

How many of you have a dog as a pet or know someone who has a dog as a pet? (Hands up.) Gosh! That’s most people. They do say that a dog is a man’s best friend and Britain certainly is a nation of dog lovers. So what do you get when you put 23,000 dogs and 153,000 people together? The answer is… Crufts, the largest dog show in the world. I know that many of you will have been watching Crufts on television last week and enjoying the different classes: Toy and Utility, Gundog, Working and Pastoral, and Terrier and Hound. Of course everyone there showing a dog wants to win their class (which means that their dog is the best in its group), but the top prize is called ‘Best in Show’. A dog who wins the Best in Show at Crufts is famous and becomes a celebrity! A popular event with the spectators at Crufts and the viewers at home is watching the dancing dogs (which is properly called ‘heel work to music’) but surely the most moving and emotional event is the Friends for Life award. Can anyone tell me what the Friends for Life award is about? (Take suggestions.) That’s right: the Friends for Life award celebrates exceptional dogs and their owners and how each has changed the life of the other. Each of the five stories of friendship in adversity you’ll hear in this assembly is about a dog who has truly earned the title of man’s best friend. Nominated as a Friend for Life by the people that know them, this is the recognition they deserve for the real difference they have made to their owners’ lives, be it through bravery, support or companionship. These dogs have shown unfailing loyalty and spirit in their constant desire to help, and are a great example of the incredible difference that dogs can make.

Friends for Life

This year five remarkable stories were told.

In August 2005, Linda, who suffers from depression, saw a sad-looking black dog in the local kennels that had been rescued by the RSPCA. Her name was Sadie. Her previous owner had mistreated her and if they could not find a home for her soon, she would be put to sleep. She is now Linda’s closest friend and has helped her through her depression. Another close canine companion is Percy, a Labrador, owned by five year old William Johnson. Against the odds, William, who has autism, has been helped to go to the shops, go on holiday and go to school by his dog. Teachers have noticed a remarkable development of William’s communication skills since Percy came into his life. In Afghanistan in 2006, Sergeant Paul Farthing and his group of Royal Marines came across several dogs that had been abandoned in the desert. One, Nowzad, had been used as a fighting dog and had both ears and tail cut off. Tali came into the camp, starving and ready to give birth to her puppies. They were fed on left-over Marine rations and a bond developed between Paul and the dogs, who now live with him in England. Hazel Carter hurt her back badly in 2006 and then was diagnosed with polymyalgic rheumatism. She trained her Newfoundland, Connie, to become her carer. Connie started to do everyday tasks such as carrying the potatoes, helping Hazel undress or doing the laundry. She has even taken on the role of assistant gardener. Harriet Ringsell and her Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla, Yepa, also share a special bond. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at eleven months old, Harriet’s friendship with Yepa has opened up a whole new world of opportunities, including training Yepa and making friends within the breed despite her disabilities. How can you pick one extraordinary dog out of so many special and loyal ones? With only one Friends for Life trophy to take home, the general public were invited to make a phone vote for the story that touched them most.

This year the award went to Harriet and Yepa. Harriet said, “Thank you for voting. Yepa means so much to me − she’s the best friend in the world.” All the dogs are special and their owners believe that their lives are richer for knowing them.

Conclusion

Dogs bring friendship, hope and companionship into people’s lives, loyal through the good as well as the bad times. All they ask is food, water, walks and love − and in return they give their love and loyalty without question. Some people say that Crufts is just a beauty show for dogs but the Friends for Life award shows that most dog owners know that it isn’t how cute your dog is, but how much you love it − and how much it loves you.

Prayer

Dear Father, Thank you for the gifts of love and compassion. The life-long friendship of pets can bring so much into our lives and we pray today for all the dogs and owners in the Friends for Life Awards, especially Nowzad and Tali, all the dogs being helped by Nowzad Dogs charity, and everyone whose life has been touched by the love of a four-footed friend. Amen.

Reflection

Love can be a difficult emotion but the love an animal is always simple and straightforward and without question.

Further information

Children who have a dog can email a picture of their pet to be a pal of Nowzad’ and posted on the charity’s website. www.nowzaddogs.co.uk Email dogs@nowzaddogs.co.uk

Children can read more about the Friends for Life Awards at www.crufts.org.uk

The Winner of Best in Show was the Giant Schnauzer CH Jarak Philippe Olivier owned by Mr and Mrs K Cullen. (There is a photograph of them on the Crufts Home Page.)

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2008

About the author: Gerald Haigh

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