Faye, a black Labrador who has helped Salford student Natalie Preston to walk again for the first time in over a decade, has been nominated for the Kennel Club’s prestigious Eukanuba Friends for Life award.
Natalie Preston, Faye’s owner, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at six months old and before meeting Faye had struggled to walk for over 10 years. However, thanks to the independence Faye gives her, Natalie is now studying for a Masters Degree in Children's Digital Production at the University of Salford.
Speaking about her specially trained Labrador, Natalie said: “When I first met Faye I fell in love with her and I immediately felt a very special connection with her. I always remember meeting Faye for the first time and remember when her trainer brought her into the room the environment around me became brighter I didn't realise how dark the environment looked for me. It was as if someone switched a big light on.
“Faye has completely changed my life. She has given me a life that I thought I would never have. I can now go out with confidence, I'm not worried about what people may think of me or worried about how I will cope when I am on my own because I know Faye is by my side, supporting me. People stop to speak to me now when I am out because of Faye, she is a great ice breaker.
“All my friends and family love Faye. She is a huge part of our family. It gives my Mum and Dad peace of mind when I go out because they know that I am not alone and Faye is taking care of me.
“We are a partnership, a team, so everyone knows that where I go, Faye goes too.
The Kennel Club’s Friends for Life competition recognises humans and dogs that have transformed each other’s lives and faced down adversity through their friendships. The award will be presented at the final on Sunday 8 March, during the world-renowned Crufts festival.
However, even before the Friends for Life competition is decided, Natalie already feels like she’s got the top prize in Faye: “When I was told that I had been nominated I was really excited! I would like to visit Crufts this year, but to think that there might be the possibility of competing is just fantastic.
“I just hope that people vote for us but Faye is a winner in my eyes.”
Professor Allan Walker, Dean for the School of Arts & Media at the University of Salford, said: “We’re very proud of Natalie and Faye’s achievement. They’ve shown all of us here at the University just what can be achieved through determination and working together. Everyone’s got their fingers crossed that they bring home the prize.”