Without her dog Archie, Alex Cowtan would not be here today.

Years spent in and out of A&E after self-harm and suicide attempts are now a distant memory, thanks to eight-month-old Archie’s arrival.

And as a result, Alex has nominated her beloved lurcher in the Man’s Best Friend category of the Friends for Life awards at Crufts this year.

Friends for Life is a celebration of just how much dogs change and improve people’s lives. Five of the finalists will got to Crufts, held once again at the NEC in Birmingham, where the winner will be announced on Sunday March 11.

People can vote for the dog they want to win by visiting the Crufts website, with the victor receiving £5,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust to donate to a dog charity of their choice and runners-up £1,000.

And Alex is hoping her special four-legged friend will claim the prize this year after having such a profound impact on her life.

“In the five months I’ve had him my life has turned completely around,” said Alex.

“I’m a massive dog lover. The one thing I’m passionate about is dogs.

“But when I got in a bad place, I couldn’t really feel anything, I didn’t want to do anything.”

Archie was not a planned addition. During a particularly low period, Alex saw someone selling puppies on Facebook and decided to go and see them just to get out of the house.

“I fell in love straight away and took him home a couple of weeks later.”

A long-time sufferer of borderline personality and obsessive compulsive disorders, 21-year-old Alex credits Archie for getting her life back on track.

After being forced to move back in with her parents in Grove Road, Bladon, Alex is looking forward to moving out in the coming months, and is enjoying her part-time work at a coffee shop.

“He’s helped me to get out of the house a lot. I’ve made a lot of friends through him,” she added.

“Even though he was a young puppy I used to take him on the bus with me to go into town or go to meet a friend.

“He still is so calm. It gives me that calmness and confidence to get out the house. It makes me want to get out the house. He helps me.”

Training Archie became a reason for Alex to get out of bed. They went to puppy classes, and passed with flying colours.

“It made me incredibly proud, which is a really nice feeling when you’re so used to feeling nothing, feeling empty. I’m very proud of him and of myself,” she concluded.

And for the first time in years, Alex is feeling positive, and looking forward to a future with Archie.

“I dread to think where I would be without him.”