A much-loved pooch who has made a difference to scores of patients receiving care from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has won a national award at Crufts Dog Show.
Eight-year-old Inca and owner Sheena Scrimgeour beat hundreds of other entrants from across the country – including 70 from the eastern region alone – to make the shortlist of six, and then faced a public vote before Inca was crowned Pets As Therapy (PAT) Dog of the Year.
Miss Scrimgeour, who lives in Hellesdon, Norwich, said: "I'm shocked but thrilled as well.
"We had an amazing time there and Inca was as good as gold.
"They started by announcing the runners-up and then suddenly Inca was named as 2018 Pat Dog of the Year – I couldn't believe it! I'm still coming back down to Earth.
"I'm so pleased, and so grateful to all the staff and service users at NSFT whose support got us into the shortlist, and to everyone who then voted for Inca to win the award."
They found out they had won in the Good Citizen arena at Crufts at the NEC Birmingham on Friday, and were given a crystal trophy, rosette, sash, some dog goodies and £500.
Miss Scrimgeour and Inca have been volunteering with the Pets As Therapy charity for the past six years. They visit Hellesdon Hospital every Monday, The Julian Hospital on Tuesdays and the Norvic Clinic on Fridays, as well as fitting in regular visits to Hellesdon High School, a prison and the University of East Anglia.
She entered Inca after receiving fantastic feedback from NSFT staff, service users and relatives about the difference she has made to them – with some even crediting the Labrador/Staffy cross as "saving their lives".
"Inca has a lovely nature and just loves people, and seems to know she is doing something beneficial," added Miss Scrimgeour. "She thoroughly enjoys the interaction and I can tell she gets pleasure from the visits.
"I've always wanted my dogs to have a rich and varied life so decided to volunteer with the charity after I retired. I'm also really interested in research which shows the benefits which animals can bring to people. They are great for mental and physical wellbeing, help people to manage stress and lower the pulse and blood pressure. All in all, they provide people with a real 'feel good' factor."
Julie Cave, Interim Chief Executive with NSFT, said: "We are absolutely delighted that Inca has won this national prize. Together with Sheena, she brings lots of smiles and joy to our wards, especially for patients who have had to leave their own pets at home while they are in our care.
"Inca and Sheena are inspirational in the voluntary work they do across our Trust."
To support Pets As Therapy, visit http://petsastherapy.org
For more information about volunteering with NSFT, click on the "get involved" tab above.
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