Heroic West Norfolk dog in frame for Crufts place

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A West Norfolk dog lover and her remarkable pet are hoping for a final spot at Crufts this year after receiving a prestigious nomination.

Higgins, a three-year-old black labrador, has been nominated for the gong in the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition.

Hannah-Lou Blackall, 28, of East Moor, and Higgins. ANL-141231-101122001

Hannah-Lou Blackall, 28, of East Moor, and Higgins. ANL-141231-101122001

He belongs to Hannah-Lou Blackall, from near Stoke Ferry, and the nomination has been made by the Canine Partners charity, who provided the specially trained mutt to her in September 2013.

The award celebrates heart-warming stories of friendship in adversity, where dogs have truly earned the title of man’s best friend, through bravery, support or companionship.

Hannah-Lou, 28, was born with arthrogryposis, a rare muscular condition which means she has weak and missing muscles and relies on an electric wheelchair.

She said: “I have always pushed the boundaries of the possibilities in my determination to do what I want to do and be as independent as possible.

“Now in the shops in the local towns people follow our progress and a cheer has been known to go up from the people behind us when Higgins gives my card or purse to a cashier in the supermarket.

“At home, Higgins will open doors which is a great liberation, switch on lights so I am not left in the dark as it descends if I am alone in the house.

“I am teaching him to fetch the TV controls from wherever they are and the house phone when it rings.

“He enjoys fetching things which they give him to give me from another part of the house, but his favourite job is tugging off my socks!

“I can finally go out on my own with a coat on, knowing that if I go into a warm place or the weather changes, Higgins will be pleased to play tug with my sleeves and pull it off. This has really meant a lot and it is now a real pleasure to go shopping on my own.

“Higgins is one in a million. I have met my match!”

Hannah-Lou and Higgins are nigh-on inseparable these days and the pair will be hoping for a trip out for the Friends for Life showpiece on March 8 when Chris Amoo, dog lover and 70s pop star with the Real Thing, presents the trophy.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokeswoman, said: “Hannah-Lou and Higgins are thoroughly deserving of this nomination and the Kennel Club wishes them luck in the Friends for Life competition. Of course, every dog that has been entered is a Friend for Life in the eyes of their owner and helps to remind us what it is that makes the relationship between dog and man so very special.”