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LEICESTER SUPPORT DOGS WIN ‘HERO AWARD’ AT CRUFTS

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A TEAM of Leicester Newfoundlands were crowned the winners of the ‘Hero Award’ at this year’s Crufts dog show for their work in emotional support and suicide prevention.

Peter Lewin and his team of five Newfoundlands were announced as the winners of the ‘Hero’ category on Sunday (March 14), for their work as therapy dogs in the field of mental health.

Picture: Pete Lewin

The Leicester paramedic takes people swimming with his dogs as a form of emotional support and well-being therapy. He said clients have told him the experience helped save their lives.

Speaking to the Leicester Times when he received his nomination back in February, Pete said that it was an honour for his dogs to be recognised.

“These dogs really are life-savers. One guy came to us after he took an overdose. Before swimming with the dogs, he was suicidal, and now he works for the ambulance service. Whatever it is that the dogs have got, it is helping people,” he revealed.

“They just give that love and attention and people just want to be with them. It’s just amazing. If we’ve saved one life, not physically but mentally, this is just an amazing achievement for us all.”

Newfoundland dogs are described as “gentle giants” by the Kennel Club, which host the annual Crufts event.

It said they have been selectively bred to have an oily waterproof coat and webbed feet to help them work in the water.

Mr Lewin takes the dogs – Storm, Sonar, Bob and Walker – to Stanton Lakes in Stoney Stanton, Leicestershire, where he will swim out about 30m (98ft) with the client and then calls one of his dogs to join them.

The client then holds on to the dog and lets it swim them back to land.

Mr Lewin said the combination of the environment and the dogs gave people peace, tranquillity and a release from everyday life.

“Everybody that comes just ends up with the biggest smile on their face,” he said.

Pete and his team of Newfoundlands were presented with their award and a cheque for £5,000 towards a dog charity of their choice by actress and award ambassador, Sally Phillips.

The four other finalists also received £1,000 for their chosen dog charity for making it to the prestigious final.

To find out more about the dogs, visit: http://petelewinnewfoundlands.co.uk/

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