FURZTON youngster Amelia Wright was a shy and nervous child who could barely make eye contact with anyone, including her own family – and then along came Pippin.

According to Amelia’s mum Alison, the ten-year-old mixed breed terrier has transformed the way her daughter, who has autism, functions in everyday life.

Nine-year-old Amelia’s younger brother Callum has severe learning difficulties, which caused Amelia to frequently become upset and reserved in her mannerisms.

But Pippin’s caring nature saw her instantly strike up a bond with Amelia and now the two are up for a prestigious award which could see the visit Crufts, the world’s biggest dog show, in March.

Pippin and Amelia have been nominated for but narrowly missed out on a final short-list for a Child’s Hero award in the Friends for Life competition, and, as Alison reveals, it’s easy to see why.

“She spent the whole time, if we’re out and about, or even at home, with her hood up and not looking at anyone, being quite withdrawn. But with Pippin, she’s so confident,” said Alison.

“She’ll talk to people, she’ll interact and at dog training classes, she becomes a completely different person. All her confidence comes from the dog.

“Our son has a severe learning disability who Amelia gets very stressed by because he can be very challenging. Her stress levels were very high before Pippin came along. We have another dog, but he didn’t seem to do the same thing.

“Amelia’s stress levels are so high to the point where she sometimes pulls her hair out. She’ll go and cuddle Pippin or talk to him and it really helps her calm down.”

“For us, seeing that difference in Amelia and seeing how it’s helped her deal with both her autism and the anxiety and stress from having a brother with a severe disability, has been really lovely to see.

“She’s gone from being a girl who is so anxious, that we struggled on a day to day basis, to someone who is so confident.

"She’s got something that is hers, her project, and she’s so focused on her. We’ve seen her confidence ignited.”

The Kennel Club wants to celebrate and share the amazing stories of how dogs give back to us every day of our lives. There will be one winner per category, decided through a public vote and the overall winner will be announced in the NEC arena at Crufts 2019. 

The winner will also be awarded £5,000 and the runners up will each receive – for their nominated canine charity – £1,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust – helping to make a difference for dogs. 

Pippin initially belonged to Alison’s mum, who passed away in 2012, before going to live with her sister.

However, two years ago, with the connection struck up with Amelia, before long, the terrier was in Milton Keynes with the family.

And after spending two years training Pippin to the point where the two now compete in numerous dogs shows around the country, Amelia added the pair’s relationship is very special indeed.

“She always listens,” said Amelia. “We’ve very close. She’s got a squeaky toy cow and whenever I press it, she comes running over the fields.

“She’s given me the confidence to talk to people. When I was at a dog show, lots of people wanted to stroke Pippin and I was just confident and was talking with her and about her and making eye contact to people I’ve never met before.

“We try to go as many dogs shows as we can.”