A loving dog who has transformed the lives of her owner's family has been awarded a 'golden bone' after winning the Hero Pet category at the Amplifon Charles Holland Awards for Brave Britons.
Assistance dog Mabel, from Banbury, Oxon, was presented with the prestigious award by Falklands hero Simon Weston, in front of her 11-year-old owner Alex White and mum Michelle.
The awards took place at a special luncheon at the Churchill War Rooms in London and recognised members of the public and existing and ex-military personnel who have shown remarkable acts of courage, bravery and incredible selflessness. Global Hearing specialist Amplifon launched their search to find ‘The Best Of British’ in memory of its founder and Second World War hero Charles Holland.
Before Mabel, holidays and days out were not possible for the White family. Crowded places could result in a massive sensory overload for Alex, who has high-functioning autism and Asperger's Syndrome, which had seen him clear supermarket shelves and attempt to climb them in the past.
Then, two years ago, all that changed as Alex was match with an assistance dog by the charity Dogs for Good. It was love at first sight for Alex and Mabel, the four-year-old Labrador. With her help, Alex can cross roads, go to the shops or dentist, settle at school and she even helps him to get a good night sleep. With their unique bond and the sense of calm Mabel brings, a whole new world has opened up to Alex. The whole family has benefited and can even go on holidays and enjoy cinema trips.
If sensory overload does become too much, Mabel has been trained to do a full body rest on Alex to help him stay calm. Sometimes anything from licking his toes or allowing him sensory release from her fur can help.
Alex, who celebrated his 12th birthday on Thursday 25 August, said, "Mabel means so much to me. I’m so shocked that Mabel and me won an award. It’s going to go in my bedroom."
Alex's mum Michelle said, "I’m delighted. It’s the first time he’s ever won anything. Mabel has done so much for Alex and the whole family and has changed his life.
"Alex doesn’t have a lot of confidence and his self esteem has been low. This award from Amplifon has given him a huge boost.
"The trip out has been a tremendous achievement for him and none of it would have been possible without Dogs For Good. He’s come so far and I’m absolutely thrilled. It has been a fantastic day at the Churchill War Rooms."
The overall winner of the four categories was Mark McGowan, of Farnborough, Hants, who also won the Community Champion title and an all-expenses paid trip to Italy where Amplifon was founded. Mark lost both legs as a child because of a bone condition but went on to dedicate his life to help improve the lives of others.