In her own words, Christine Mildenhall would not be here today if it wasn’t for her dog Fletcher.

The six-year-old golden retriever is one smart pooch – helping Worthing’s Christine open and close doors, picking up items for her and generally acting as another pair of hands around the house.

But his support goes far beyond that of picking up a pen or a dropped set of keys.

Fletcher’s presence and ability to read Christine’s emotions means her four-legged friend has been her rock throughout a difficult period for the 46-year-old, who lost her mum four years ago and has struggled with depression.

The pair, brought together through dog training charity Canine Partners, are now shortlisted for the Extraordinary Life of a Working Dog category of the upcoming Friends for Life awards at Crufts.

“I lost my mum coming up four years,” explained Christine, of Pilgrims Walk. “Fletcher helped me through with quite bad depression and if I didn’t have him with me, I would have ended it all and don’t think I’d be here now.

“He changed my life completely.

“When I first had him, my mum had her first stroke and he helped me through that – it was obviously quite major and he really helped me.

“And then when mum passed away and I had to move – I used to live with her – when we first moved I was out of my comfort zone, didn’t know where to go or what to do.

“I sat and talked to him – I know I can talk to him and he can’t tell anyone my secrets!

“If I’m getting stressed, he comes up to my chair and he puts his head on my lap and just looks at me, that helps me to calm down if I start stroking his head.

“I have carers who come in but if I’m on my own I can get really shaky with my nerves. He then puts his head on my lap or brings his toy over so we can play.”

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.

Christine, who has cerebral palsy, is a client at Worthing Scope Physical Disability Centre and Fletcher proves to be a hit whenever he trots through the doors alongside her.

And the pair often tour schools in the area to put on shows teaching children about disability.

“He comes with me and shows people what he does,” said Christine. “If I’m in the play and I have to change hats or something, he takes my hat off and everyone gives him a round of applause.

“He also sits by my chair and shows the children that that’s what working dogs do – everyone falls in love with him.

“And all the clients at Scope absolutely love him and call him the centre’s dog – they go to him, hug him, give him cuddles and kisses.

“He makes them happy and he also makes me happy because I know I’ve got such a good dog that helps me.

“People say hello to him and then seem to wait to see if he answers them back! He’s not just changed my life but others’ as well.”