Labradoodle Delia has been selected by residents of Burgess Hill as their local animal hero in a competition run by Heath Veterinary Clinic.
The clinic invited members of the West Sussex community to nominate animals that had been through tough times, done something brave for their family or helped their owners through difficult times.
Standing head and shoulders above the other entries was Delia, the canine partner of Ruth Rice, who suffers from a neurological auto-immune condition that often leaves her unable to move, speak or even open her eyes when she wakes up.
Delia, who was trained by assistance dog charity Canine Partners, has perfected a way of nudging Ruth’s arm to enable her to wake up. She then helps her to the bathroom, switches on the light, passes Ruth a towel and even puts the bathmat on the floor for her.
One morning Ruth needed the bathroom but was unable to move or speak. Husband Gary was unable to lift her, yet Delia managed to get her out of bed and guide her to the bathroom – with Ruth on her knees and hands clasped across Delia’s back.
Ruth said: “We still can’t work out how she managed to achieve what neither of us humans could – she is one in a million.
“Not only has Delia dramatically changed our lives, she seems to instinctively understand what I need, even when I’ve lost the power of speech. I feel so much more confident and content with my four-legged helper by my side.”
Ruth says Delia is “indispensable”, helping with daily household tasks and accompanying her to the shops.
Heath vets’ senior vet Emily Chadburn said: “We are thrilled with the success of our competition, which has enabled us to find such a deserving animal hero as Delia. We look forward to seeing her on our website’s logo banner, posters, leaflets and social media platforms.”
As well as appearing on the clinic’s website and promotional literature, Delia won a year’s VIP (Very Important Pet) membership to Heath Vets, saving Ruth and Gary up to £183 in vaccinations, flea treatments and health checks.