Veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals awarded the dogs with the PDSA Order of Merit at a ceremony at the Artillery Company of Honor in east London on Thursday.
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Five dogs, including Hampshire Search and Rescue volunteer Zak and Europe’s first forensic dog Oliver, were recognized at the day-long event.
Six-year-old Oliver is a pioneer in providing support and comfort to victims of crime, often sitting alongside the children while they report an offense to the police or give evidence in court.
PTSD rescue dog Jerry and police dog Dexter were also recognized after years of important support and dedication.
Kevin Saunders, 40, is a volunteer with Hampshire Search and Rescue and nominated his colleague and pet, 14-year-old border collie Zak.
“Eleven years ago (on Wednesday) he found his first missing person and saved a life,” said Mr Saunders, from Southampton PA.
“The gentleman was missing for about three days, we were directed to a certain area… and he found him in the evening of the same day and took him to his relatives.
“He totally deserves it, he’s a hero dog in so many ways and he’s been my partner for all these years… I’m so proud of him. He deserves everything.”
By the time he retired in 2020, Zach had flown more than 300 missions and saved four lives.
“He still has a great nose and can still sniff out anything – sausages in the house are no problem.”
Also honored was Clive, a 10-year-old cocker spaniel who is a support dog for his owner Michelle Sutherland.
Ms Sutherland lives with Addison’s disease, a condition in which the adrenal glands, which produce a natural survival hormone called cortisol, self-destruct, meaning her body cannot cope with stress.
After starting life as a pet, they soon realized that Clive could tell when Ms Sutherland’s cortisol levels were low and alert her to medication.
“There’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t warn (me) it’s an opportunity to save my life every day and probably without that there wouldn’t be a shadow if it wasn’t for Clive I wouldn’t be here,” said the 34- a summer resident of Hull.
“Going from being stuck in your own house, the fear of passing out and passing out and people avoiding you, to silly things like going to the store and buying a bottle of milk.
“Then to gain trust and learn to grow with Clive… We do everything together.”
Veterinary nurse Nina Downing added: “The PDSA Order of Merit is an award given to a dog, cat, horse or any animal that represents the human-animal bond and shows how strong it is, and it’s a unique award.
“We love awards ceremonies because these dogs or horses, these recipients don’t know they’re doing a great job.
“(But) they love it, and that’s something we always have to remember … They love to play a role, they love to have a purpose in life.’