PDSA Order of Merit awarded to five outstanding dogs for exceptional devotion to duty and service to society
12 July 2022
Vet charity PDSA has honoured five outstanding dogs with the prestigious PDSA Order of Merit* at a special ceremony in London today (14 July). The PDSA Order of Merit celebrates extraordinary animals who demonstrate devotion to duty and the unique bond between animals and humans – a bond that is PDSA’s mission to protect.
The five incredible canines who were honoured included two pioneering Labradors: the UK’s first Police Wellbeing Dog, Police Dog (PD) Dexter, and Europe's first Justice Facility Dog, Oliver, who provides support and comfort to victims of crime.
They are joined by Medical Alert Assistance Dog Clive, who has helped to transform his owner’s life following an Addison’s disease diagnosis, and retired Hampshire Search and Rescue Dog Zak. And finally, Jerry, a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Assistance Dog, whose support has enriched the life of his owner, a former soldier, and other veterans. All excel in their roles to provide much-needed physical support and mental wellbeing to owners, and the wider community, with an exemplary dedication to service.
Police Dog (PD) Dexter
The three-year-old black Labrador supports the mental health and wellbeing of Metropolitan Police Officers and staff, including Emergency Response Teams, and the NHS. His role was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and, alongside his handler, Police Constable Mike Sheather, he helps frontline Police Officers who may be struggling both personally and professionally with the intense pressure of the job, in particular dealing with traumatic incidents. PD Dexter’s visits provide support and comfort, opening up conversations, and providing a visual and physical source of reassurance, as individuals discuss their mental health struggles.
PC Sheather said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Dexter, and the other extraordinary recipients, have been acknowledged by PDSA for the incredible work they do. The bond between humans and animals is so strong and can create really amazing life-changing benefits. We are proud to receive the PDSA Order of Merit and to have celebrated the enormous achievements of PD Dexter and other recipients of this prestigious accolade.”
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, added: “We have all been incredibly moved by the dogs’ emotive stories and their life-changing actions. PDSA is honoured to celebrate and mark their unstinting devotion to their roles and the remarkably positive impact they have had on so many people’s lives and wellbeing. The PDSA Order of Merit is a fitting tribute to each dog’s distinguished career, and they are all thoroughly deserving recipients.”
Justice Facility Dog Oliver
Also being honoured is a trailblazing six-year-old Labrador who supports victims of crime as Europe’s first Justice Facility Dog and the first to be placed at a university. Oliver has been recognised for the unconditional comfort and companionship he offers to vulnerable victims of crime, helping children and adults to relax when giving evidence on harrowing situations. Oliver has helped Kent Police and Canterbury Christ Church University pioneer such care, as well as supporting NHS staff during the pandemic.
Search and Rescue Dog Zak
A recently retired Border Collie from Southampton, Zak, was honoured for his role as a Search and Rescue Dog. Since beginning his training at just nine-weeks-old with voluntary organisation Hampshire Search and Rescue Dogs in 2009, Zak and his owner Kev Saunders MBE have attended over 300 searches, helping to find and rescue vulnerable missing people. Zak is the second animal to receive both a PDSA Commendation (in 2015) and a PDSA Order of Merit, due to his incredible role in promoting the positive contribution animals make to human lives.
Medical Alert Assistance Dog Clive
Cocker Spaniel Clive, a 10-year-old dog from Hull, was recognised for life-changing devotion to his owner Michelle Sutherland as a Medical Alert Assistance Dog and constant companion. Clive supports Michelle (34) who has life-threatening Addison’s disease, a rare disorder of the adrenal glands. Clive stays loyally by Michelle’s side and, over the years, he has alerted her thousands of times, avoiding the need for ambulance call-outs and hospital stays, completely transforming Michelle’s life. Michelle strongly believes she would not be here today if it were not for Clive.
PTSD Assistance Dog Jerry
Also providing around the clock assistance to his owner is Jerry, an eight-year-old Cocker Spaniel from Hook, Hampshire, who works as a Service Dogs UK (SDUK) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Assistance Dog. Owner Mark Lanchbery (60) suffered serious life-changing injuries in 2008, while serving with the British Army. The incredible bond Mark enjoys with Jerry helps him to sustain his emotional and mental wellbeing. Jerry is trained to wake Mark if he is having nightmares so he can control his anxiety attacks, take clothes to the washing machine, switch lights on and off, and fetch medication, waiting patiently by Mark’s side until he has taken it.
The PDSA Order of Merit was instituted in 2014 and is given in recognition for exceptional acts of devotion by animals to their owner or wider society. It represents outstanding examples of the special bond that exists between animals and humans.
In 2021, the charity provided 1.8 million veterinary treatments to over 370,000 pets in PDSA’s 48 Pet Hospitals, located in some of the UK’s most deprived areas.
For more information about the PDSA Order of Merit and the five inspirational dogs, visit: www.pdsa.org.uk/oom-celebration.