An Eastbourne dog has been nominated for a national award for her work helping hospital patients.
Bella the Bichon Frise has been chosen out of hundreds of helpful hounds to be a finalist for Therapy Dog of the Year.
The four-year-old pooch has been praised for her work as a Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog at local hospitals and schools, which she visits with her owner Barry Coase.
Reacting to the news, Bella’s other owner Petra Coase said, “We are absolutely thrilled and extremely proud of her being shortlisted as one of the top six dogs in UK to being Pets as Therapy Dog of the year.
“I’m extremely proud of both Barry and Bella as they work together as such a fabulous team in providing therapeutic support to vulnerable people in the community, schools, hospital and now further afield.
“Doctors, nurses and hospital staff affectionately call Thursdays ‘Bella day’! Everyone there appears to benefit from their visits.”
The competition, organised by Pets as Therapy and Yours magazine, is down to the final six – and the public can vote for the winner here.
Bella was rescued by Barry and Petra at 20-weeks-old after a ‘terrible start in life, badly treated and a little broken’.
Petra said, “Barry worked tirelessly with her by showing love and care and helping her to understand not all humans are nasty and untrustworthy. As a result she and Barry have an extremely close bond.”
Now she is helping others, and has even extended her therapeutic qualities to helping veterans suffering with PTSD – a cause close to Barry’s heart, as an army veteran.
Bella was nominated for the award by a number of the hospitals and schools she visits.
East Dean Stroke Ward sister Suzie Hover said, “The response we see from patients when Bella visits the ward is amazing.
“She cheers our stroke patients up when they are feeling depressed, makes them smile and gives them the motivation to get better.”
One patient said, “Bella’s visits give me a reason to fight on.” A nurse in the children’s unit said she ‘brings joy and calms the patients’.
While South Downs Special School said in the nomination, “Bella encouraged one child to walk unaided because she wanted to stroke her so much.”
Voting closes on January 22, 2019, and the ultimate winner will be announced at Crufts in March 2019.
And for more information about Pets as Therapy call 01865 671440 or visit petsastherapy.org