A Staffordshire Bull Terrier who spreads joy to hospital patients and has saved more than 30 dogs’ lives with blood donations, has been awarded the RSPCA Service Animal Award.
Seven-year-old Romeo, who lives with his owner Steph Hartley in Hertfordshire, is a Pets as Therapy dog as well as a canine blood donor through the Royal Veterinary College and has so far saved 38 dogs.
The friendly Staffie visits patients at the Lister Hospital in the stroke ward as well as popping into a care home where he brings some much-needed joy to everyone he meets.
Steph says, “I’m so proud of him for winning and I’m proud of him all the time. I think it’s wonderful and so nice for him to get recognition for what he does and how special he is as he’s such an amazing dog.”
When Romeo first came into Steph’s life at five-months-old, he was a typical, excitable puppy, as she explains, “I was living with my parents at the time and their two miniature Daschunds. My nan moved into assisted living and was coming round to our house a lot and I was worried he would jump all over her as he’d be really excited but he didn’t. He’d be running around like crazy just a minute before and then when she arrived he very calmly and gently laid next to her, making sure he wouldn’t knock into her. He was always like that with my nan, it was like he just knew he had to act a different way around her which made me think he would make an amazing PAT dog.
“When my parents’ Dachshund Shadow was diagnosed with lymphoma and was receiving chemo at RVC I would take Romeo along to the vet appointments to keep Shadow company and get Romeo used to being at the vets. He was so good at the vets and the nurses said they were in desperate need of blood donors and asked if we would consider it when Romeo was old enough. I had never really thought about pet blood donation before but of course they need blood just like we give blood so when he weighed enough, I took him and he absolutely loved it.”
Steph adds, “Romeo is a Staffie and for some people that comes with some misconceptions about the breed but he is the biggest baby, he weighs 28kgs and he still wants to sit on my lap. He’s the sweetest, loveliest dog, and it’s really nice to show just how wonderful Staffies are and that the bad press they sometimes get really isn’t fair.”
Romeo was presented with his award by Pete Wicks, as a star-studded event held at 195 Piccadilly, London – the famous home fo the BAFTA – on Thursday (27 June). The RSPCA event also saw celebrities John Bishop, Deborah Meaden, Evanna Lynch, Peter Egan, Kate Lawler and Matt Johnson come together with winners and nominators to celebrate their shared love for animals.
Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive at the RSPCA, says, “The RSPCA Honours are an opportunity to celebrate the amazing animals and outstanding people who work to improve animal welfare. We all share this goal to see a world where animals are treated with respect and compassion and so as the oldest and biggest animal welfare charity in England and Wales, the RSPCA takes great honour in celebrating these amazing individuals, animals, and incredible organisations at the RSPCA Honours awards.”