Dog up for national award

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A DOG that visits schools and refuges to raise the spirits of young people going through difficult times, is in the running for a national award.
German Shepherd Ava, kept by her Stanford-le-Hope owner Nikki Bryant, has for several years been a Pets as Therapy dog, helping pupils to read and being a comfort to others from tough backgrounds.
And for her hard work, Ava was chosen from 80 nominations as one of six finalists in the running to be named Pets as Therapy Dog of the Year. The winner will be named at Crufts next year.
Owner Nikki, 44, said: “Ava is perfect at a Pets as Therapy dog because she’s a German Shepherd with an amazingly big heart who just loves spending time playing with the children.
“She has helped children with their reading, but has also helped those who are frightened of dogs. Children at the refuge have said that Ava makes their worries go away. She makes them feel safe.
“The key to it is that she was brought up superbly well, and for that I have to give credit to Joan Lockett and Joan Bunce, who bred her and made her the dog she is today.”
Pets as Therapy is a registered charity that brings together volunteer pet owners with places that could benefit from an animal’s presence. Nikki is the volunteer local area co-ordinator for the charity in Stanford-le-Hope.
Ava makes weekly visits to Eversley Primary, Merrylands School and Thurrock Women’s Refuge, in addition to other ad hoc visits to community groups including the Stanford Salvation Army and local beaver groups.
And her schedule will soon get even busier, as Nikki this week gained permission to start making regular visits to see patients at Basildon Hospital through being added to their approved volunteer list.
“Ava is now six and a half, but as long as she doesn’t get tired we’ll keep coming into the schools and helping out. At the moment she loves it so much I can’t see her wanting to stop,” added Nikki.
A public vote will decide the overall winner, and voting is until 31 December. To vote visit https://www.yours.co.uk/features/charity/articles/vote-for-your-pets-as-therapy-dog-of-the -year,