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Trainee police dog Tag gives disabled ‘best friend’ Marina, 8, confidence boost

Her mother, Jo Pritchard, said the bond between the two had helped improved Marina’s confidence.

A young girl born with a problem which meant her legs and arms did not develop properly has formed a special relationship with a puppy she is helping train to become a police dog.

Marina, eight, who was born in Russia with congenital limb differences and adopted at the age of two by a family in Devon, adores her “best friend”, eight-month-old Tag.

Her mother, Jo Pritchard, said the bond between the two had helped improved Marina’s confidence.

She said: “‘Marina has had a special relationship with Tag from day one. Tag knows when Marina and her brother, Seth, are on their way home from school and waits at the gate to greet them. Marina has always loved animals, but her relationship with Tag has improved her confidence.”

Ms Pritchard said Marina loves to tell people she is helping to train a police dog and has become so close to Tag that she has asked to become his main carer.

The pair’s special bond was noticed during a recent puppy training session at Devon and Cornwall Police headquarters in Exeter when canine development officer Paul Glennon noticed that Tag showed unusual sensitivity and gentleness when interacting with the little girl.

He said: “It was clear to me straight away at our police puppy training days that Tag and Marina were very close. Tag is an intelligent and calm puppy and adores Marina. He seems to understand her disabilities and limitations and is incredibly gentle with her, which is amazing for a dog of his age. We have high hopes for Tag moving forward to full police dog training when he’s old enough.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Marina said of the day when Tag will have to leave to continue his training: “I’m going to be very sad but I know he is going to be a very cool police dog and he is going to catch loads of baddies.”

She added: “He is my best friend. He is basically my special BFF.”

Marina was adopted after Ms Pritchard, a children’s physiotherapist, met her while she was working for the charity ThePromise, which works in Russia and neighbouring countries training people in “portage”, a pre-school education system designed to support the development of children with disabilities.

Marina, who enjoys running, tennis and swimming, wears custom sports prosthetic “running blades” on her legs, which were made by Ossur after a chance meeting with Paralympian Richard Whitehead, who arranged for Marina to go to London and have the blades fitted.

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