Islington’s wonder dog nominated for Crufts award

Robert Stuhldreer with his Akita Flora

Robert Stuhldreer with his Akita Flora - Credit: Archant

An Islington dog lover is hoping a special bond with his faithful four-legged friend Flora will be recognised on the biggest stage after nominating his pooch for a spot in the final of the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition at Crufts 2016.

Flora, a four-year-old Akita, was nominated for the gong by owner Robert Stuhldreer, of Dunford Road, Holloway, who is indebted to his pet for helping him to cope with his health problems.

The Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life competition 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.

And that could not be truer than in the case of Flora and 55-year-old Robert, who suffers from unexplained frequent blackouts which caused him to previously stop working as a nurse and councillor.

Robert gets no warning prior to having a blackout but, such is the relationship between dog and owner, Flora often helps to alert him beforehand by barking or getting his attention.

She has also helped with Robert’s confidence issues when leaving the house while the pair are currently working with the charity Recovery to help Flora become a recovery assistance dog – all leaving Robert extremely proud of his pet pooch.

“I love this girl so much, my life has been changed irrevocably and entirely because of this extraordinary girl,” said Robert, who attends Alpha Dog Training Club in Finsbury Park and ringcraft club in Crews Hill.

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“Not only can my blackouts cause things like broken bones from where I fall over but it’s also made me severely depressed and worried about going out on my own.

“Flora has helped with that. One evening I was walking back from our local ring craft club and I blacked out. When I came to, I was in excruciating pain but my first thought was for Flora, and she had laid her head on my chest and had been licking me to bring me round.

“Since then she will instruct me to sit down when I am about to have a blackout and helps me feel safe. I thought it was a coincidence at first but it seems she has a sense for when I’m about to blackout.”

Robert and Flora are already developing a name for themselves with Flora having starred in upcoming feature film Trespass Against Us with Hollywood superstars Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson as well as in the sell out West End production of You Me Bum Bum Train.

The pair will be hoping for another trip out for the Kennel Club’s Eukanuba Friends for Life showpiece on Sunday March 13 at Birmingham’s NEC.

Crufts, run by the Kennel Club, is a unique celebration of happy, healthy dogs and will this year be celebrating it’s 125th anniversary.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokesperson, said: “Robert and Flora are thoroughly deserving of this nomination and the Kennel Club wishes them luck in the Eukanuba Friends for Life competition.

“We have been honoured to hear about the hundreds of dogs throughout the UK who are making a profound difference to people’s lives.

“Crufts is the world’s best known dog stage and encourage anybody who thinks that their dog’s loyalty, friendship or bravery has made a difference to their life, or the lives of others, to get in touch. Each and every one of the finalists has helped to change and save lives in their own unique and special way.”

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