A YORK woman whose life has been transformed by her four-legged friend is hoping to reward the dog’s loyalty with an award.

After suffering from severe mental health problems for years, Natalie Mitchell adopted Mitsy when she was an eight-week-old puppy.

Natalie, 22, credits the Patterdale terrier for turning her life around and is now putting Mitsy forward for the the Hero Assistance Dog award, part of the Friends for Life awards, at Crufts.

Natalie’s mum Bridget said: “She needs distracting from self-harming and nightmares, when she has flashbacks. She was severely bullied at school, and this is where a lot of her mental health issues have come from. She’s always had animals in her life, and they’ve always helped her.”

Friends for Life is a celebration of how much dogs change and improve people’s lives. Five of the finalists will go to the 127th edition of Crufts, at the NEC in Birmingham, where the winner will be announced on March 11.

People can vote for the dog they want to win by visiting the Crufts website, with the victor’s owner receiving £5,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust to donate to a dog charity of their choice. The runners-up receive £1,000.

Natalie nominated Mitsy for a Hero Assistance Dog award last year but they did not make it to Crufts.

Natalie’s partner Ben encouraged her to get a dog three years ago and she has trained Mitsy up with the support of Recovery Assistance Dogs, a charity which helps people suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, and a business called True Pawtential.

Particularly severe episodes of anxiety can cause Natalie to lose her vision and even lose consciousness, so Mitsy alerts her when she senses Natalie starting to worry.

“Natalie passed out the other day when she was on her own at her flat and when she came round Mitsy was on her chest barking at her,” Bridget said.