Support dog Matilda named as Vets Now Pet of the Year 2022 winner
Sofia Dobson, from Warrington, Cheshire, was left mostly wheelchair-bound by the devastating stroke. She is also registered blind, has cerebral palsy and suffers from damaging seizures.
But Sofia, who is now eight, has formed such a bond with two-year-old Matilda, the Bichon Frise has just been named the winner of Vets Now’s first Pet of the Year award.
“The pair of them are inseparable and she has helped Sofia in so many ways, even letting us know when she might be about to have a seizure,” said mum-of-three Sarah Dobson, 45, who is Sofia’s full-time carer.
“She’s like a real-life little teddy bear who never leaves her side. The difference in Sofia in the past two years has been incredible.”
Sofia became seriously ill soon after she was born, and the family were told she was unlikely to survive. An MRI showed she’d had a massive stroke and she was left was severe disabilities.
Doctors said she would probably not be able to talk, or walk, at all but she has proved them wrong and has also been an inspiration for others by leading charity fundraising events.
While Sofia is able to attend a mainstream school, it was felt a support dog could help with her complex sensory issues. After a lengthy search for the right breed, the family settled on a Bichon Frise and were won over by Matilda’s laid-back nature when they got her as a puppy.
“Sofia struggles to make friends and communicate with other children,” said Sarah, who is also studying forensic psychology. “So, we thought a dog would be perfect for companionship and improving her confidence.
And Sofia is passionate about continuing to raise funds and awareness for childhood stroke.
“She loves being involved in charity walks for the Stroke Association, with Matilda of course,” said Sarah. “She just amazing and always says she wants to help other children like her.”
Dave Leicester, who is responsible for a team of experienced vets at the Video Vets Now service, said: “After a tumultuous two years, we wanted to celebrate the important role pets have played for so many families and individuals across the UK.
“It’s a chance to shine a light on pets who have overcome injuries, or other challenges, and provided their owners with overwhelming comfort and support.”