'Life-saving' Headway Suffolk dog companionship project up for top award and needs your vote
The love of a rescue dog helped Michael Anderson turn his life around - and he is calling on people to cast a vote to help the scheme that made it happen win a top award.
Headway Suffolk’s Brainy Dogs, which trains rescue dogs to become companions for people with a brain injury or neurological condition, has been shortlisted from over 700 projects into the final 10 of the community and charity category in the National Lottery’s 25th Birthday Awards.
The winner receives £10,000 and will appear on a BBC One awards show.
And Michael, of Elsmwell, is urging voters to back the Headway scheme, which paired him with his crossbreed dog Boss at a time when he was struggling.
“I was on my own and quite truthfully I thought I couldn’t handle life but as soon as I got Boss it took me out of that train of thought,” he said.
“It’s one of the best things that happened to me.
Quite truthfully I thought I couldn’t handle life but as soon as I got Boss it took me out of that train of thought - Michael Anderson
“Boss is fantastic - he will not leave my side. He’s always there for me.”
Brainy Dogs has been running for seven years and has given more than 70 dogs and their owners a fresh start.
Training is provided by prisoners at HMP Hollesley Bay as well as teenagers and adults whose lives have been affected by mental ill-health, exclusion from education and criminal behaviour.
It allows them to gain work experience and learn new life skills.
Support is also provided to Headway clients, who are struggling with their dog so they can keep them.
Sophie Wellum-Mayes, Brainy Dogs co-ordinator, said: “We’ve had clients literally say the dogs have saved their lives - it gives them something to get up for, the companionship and the love.
“Dogs are natural ice breakers so it gets them out and about talking to people on dog walks.
“It gets them out of the negative cycle and for a couple of clients, their physical mobility has improved.”
The charity helps 250 adults a week with a brain injury or a neurological condition through rehabilitation, therapy and support services.
Michael, 55, added: “Please vote for our system, it’s helped so many people. It was a real leg up in life - life was starting to beat me and now it doesn’t.”
To vote, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/projects/view/brainy-dogs
Twitter users can vote by tweeting or retweeting #NLABrainyDogs.
Voting ends on August 21.