A Darwen college student admits it’s hard to explain how much her pet dog has helped her through the toughest period of her life. 

Bethany Wolstencroft, 16, nominated her eight-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier Sapphire for The Kennel Club Friends for Life award at Crufts, after she helped her through her father’s death and her GCSEs. 

Five years ago, Bethany’s father died from cancer and as a result the student struggled in the aftermath to do simple tasks. 

Her mental health deteriorated and getting out of bed was a daily battle, but Sapphire was on hand to help Bethany negotiate the challenges she faced. 

“I got Sapphire as a puppy from Scotland, we were looking for a dog at the time and she appealed to us,” Bethany said.

“We spoke to the owners and at the time about her parents and they said the mother and father were very loving dogs, so we thought they would be great qualities for Sapphire.

“It was a really horrid time and she helped me so much with that. I just stopped doing so many things and she got me round to just wanting to do things again.

“We do a lot of charity work together we will stand in town and dress up in fancy dress with Sapphire as a unicorn and raise money for different charities.
“We go to a lot of dog shows and she’s won quite a lot of rosettes in those, so that helped me with my confidence to want to go out and carry on doing things.

“I really enjoyed mixing with other people’s dogs and I enjoyed watching her be happy with other dogs.

“It’s just being involved in something that I was actually starting to enjoy, made me want to go out more and especially with Sapphire because she makes me happy she’s my best friend.

As Bethany was diagnosed with various disabilities, Sapphire was trained as an assistance dog to perform deep pressure therapy.

“She rests her head and her upper-body, her chest and her neck on certain parts of my body because for one of my conditions, I feel quite light-headed from that,” she said.

“Obviously because of the hormones that releases when she just pushes down on my chest it relaxes me, helps me calm down and I feel more secure.”

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.

Bethany hopes that positive stories of Staffordshire bull terriers can help change the perception of the breed and prove how special they can be. 

And it’s for that reason Sapphire was nominated in the man’s best friend category, celebrating a pet dog who has seen its owner through the hardest times as well as the happiest.

“I really think people don’t understand how much she has helped me. It’s hard to explain, I do a lot of activities with her and I feel we understand each other,” she said.

“It’s just unbelievable, especially because she’s one of those breeds that has bad press and people don’t see them as a good dog, but they really are, and Sapphire means the world to me.”