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VIP (very important pooch) holiday for Becky as a reward for her service to the community

By Stephanie Bell

Published 07/04/2016

Becky enjoying her prize of a holiday in Scotland
Becky enjoying her prize of a holiday in Scotland
Becky enjoying her prize of a holiday in Scotland
Becky enjoying her prize of a holiday in Scotland
Becky enjoying her prize of a holiday in Scotland
Becky enjoying her prize of a holiday in Scotland
Margaret McKnight with Becky

As she frolics in the forest and poses for pictures on a carpet of snowdrops, Northern Ireland's top dog Becky laps up every minute of a dream doggy holiday.

The 10-year-old mongrel, a hard-working Pets As Therapy dog in Bangor, has just returned from a VIP break to Scotland after being crowned our most deserving dog.

Life could have been so very different for Becky, who as a puppy was bundled into a sack and dumped into the River Lagan with her brothers and sisters.

She was rescued by passers-by, and has enjoyed a full and happy life working as a Pets As Therapy dog, giving something back to the community.

Becky enjoyed three nights at the dog-friendly Trigony House Hotel in Dumfries and Galloway with her devoted owner Margaret McKnight courtesy of Stena Line and VisitScotland.

Becky, who came through three major operations last year, was treated like a VIP, served breakfast every morning and greeted with her own special welcome pack.

She enjoyed a visit to Galloway Forest Park, historic castles and paddles in rock pools on local beaches.

Her award recognised her lifelong commitment to helping people through pet therapy.

She continues to visit the elderly in local care homes, even though she herself battles a failing liver and pancreas.

Margaret said: "It was a brilliant holiday.

"I couldn't believe the way they accommodated dogs.

"Everywhere you went was dog-friendly, and Becky was able to go into shops and restaurants, and the guesthouse itself was just amazing.

"Becky got a box of treats on arrival with a card welcoming her and offering a bed and throw if she needed it, and advising her only to bark in case of emergencies.

"She had the run of the house apart from the dining room, but she could sit with us in the bar if we chose to eat there. It was also lovely to go to bed knowing she was curled up in her bed close to us.

"They even welcomed her back from a walk with muddy paws, giving us dog shampoo, warm water and towels.

"She has been through such a rough time physically with her operations that I really think it was a massive boost to her and perked her up no end."

Becky was unable to eat the standard dog breakfast of sausages because of her health, so she was instead served up a carrot specially cut up into small pieces - another touch that really impressed Margaret.

The wonderful countryside also offered Becky the chance to run free, and as you can see from our pictures, she did indeed have what Margaret describes as "a constant big grin on her chops" the whole time she was there.

For the past eight years Becky has brought joy to the elderly through weekly visits to nursing homes and has raised thousands of pounds for charity through talks to groups by Margaret (63), a retired teacher.

Her special qualities were recognised at the highest level when she famously won the first ever Scruffy Dogs category at Crufts two years ago, which subsequently led to a starring role in the Grand Opera House in Belfast in a production of Annie. Becky has lived with a heart murmur and dyspraxia from birth, but Margaret realised very soon after rescuing her that she had a special talent - giving affection and love.

Margaret explained: "There is something special about her. Even people who don't know her want to pat her.

"I've had dogs all my life. Something about Becky really gets people to smile at her.

"Taking dogs on holiday is not always accessible or appropriate, but after our trip to Scotland I think Stena Line should change their catchphrase from 'All dogs can go to Scotland' to 'All dogs SHOULD go to Scotland'."

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