Eastbourne man and his Crufts-winning therapy dog have been shortlisted for a Soldiering On Award
Bichon Frise Bella, who was named therapy dog of the year at last year’s Crufts, is up for another award.
This week, Bella has been shortlisted for the Soldiering On Awards, a military charity which recognises the extraordinary work of those who support the armed forces community.
Bella, alongside owner Barry Coase, will be vying for recognition against three other finalists in the animal partnership category, which celebrates the work of animals and their owners in and around the services community.
As part of their nomination, they have been invited to a reception at the House of Lords this February, where they’ll be presented with a certificate and get the chance to meet the other finalists.
The winner will be decided via public vote, which goes live from March 5 to March 18, to be announced in a Westminster ceremony later this year.
Barry and Bella have been nominated for their work with Combat Stress, a charity which supports the mental health of armed forces veterans.
Barry Coase, who lives with post-traumatic stress himself, recognised Bella’s ability to identify stress in others and decided to put it to good use, volunteering his free time at Eastbourne DGH through Pets as Therapy, using Bella to support patients through the long, emotionally taxing days of healing.
Barry said, “Bella has a natural instinct for recognising when someone needs support .
Petra Coase, Barry’s wife, said she was proud the pair had been shortlisted for the awards.
She said, “We are honoured and so very excited to be playing a small part in these awards. To have recognition for what Barry and Bella do is priceless.”
This is not the only time Barry and Bella have been recognised for their work.
The tag-team do more than just support hospital patients, however, winning Crufts last year has helped Barry bring Bella and her skills to more people than ever.
They also work with Step for Stroke, walking round Hampden Park with the charity every year, Bella wears her stroke bandanna for the events.
They regularly support guests at the Blue Van veterans drop-in centre at The Hub, in Seaside.