Northern Ireland celebrates hero pets of the year
Shortlist full of special tales of spirit and bravery
A Shih Tzu named Lucy Lou who was near death after three years on a Co Tyrone puppy farm has been named as a finalist for Northern Ireland's first ever hero pet of the year.
Nine courageous pets have been shortlisted for the prize, including Nelson, a one-eyed Husky from Belfast, and Poppy, a life-saving labrador from Bangor who makes sure her epileptic owner gets to a safe place during seizures.
Lucy Lou's owner, Sandra Bothwell from Carrickfergus, told the Belfast Telegraph about her brave Shih Tzu.
"She was used for breeding for three years on a dirty old puppy farm. When I first saw her it was horrible, she was full of fleas and lice and her coat was green and smelly," she said.
After being re-homed the pooch also endured a vicious attack from a German Shepard while out walking.
"I had to bring her to the vet every day for treatment. Lucy went through an awful lot but she's the best wee dog," her owner said.
Nelson the Husky was on death row in a Monaghan dog pound after being beaten so badly he lost an eye. But he now has a happy new home with Belfast owners Tracy McCaughey and her husband Paul.
"It makes me cry. The injury to his eye was that bad they couldn't save it," said Tracy. "Apparently he was an internet sensation with a Monaghan dog pound before we got him because he's so gorgeous."
She added: "They say rescued dogs make the best pets because they know they've been given a second chance."
Other hero pets on the shortlist include Lisburn labrador Ara who saved her family by waking them during a caravan fire.
Meanwhile, Jamie, a caring cat from Newtownabbey, still visits his previous owner in a nursing home. And therapy dogs Spot and Ted in Craigavon are favourites with school children with special needs.
Honey, a Ballymena labrador, has been a life changer for his family's young autistic daughter Becca. Ripley, a Belfast pug, supported her owner through difficult times, and Alfie, a King Charles Spaniel from Lisburn, bounced back from what was thought to be terminal cancer.
Carrickfergus-based vet Kerensa Scott said: "For most owners their pets are a member of the family and a source of companionship, but for some owners, their pet is also a one-of-a-kind hero."
- Voting for Northern Ireland's hero pet of the year closes on September 30. For more information, visit www.vets4pets.com/northern-ireland