Eastbourne Crufts champions win award for mental health work

A Crufts-winning duo from Eastbourne have won a national award for their work around mental health awareness.

Barry Coase and Bella the Bichon Frise, have won the Soldiering On Awards’ Animal Partnership category.

Barry left the army in 1991 and was eventually diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).

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Bella came into Barry’s life in 2015 as a 21-week-old puppy who had had a traumatic start to life herself.

Barry and Bella from Eastbourne

A spokesperson for the awards said, “Filthy, fearful and feral, she crawled towards Barry and lay shaking. It was immediately obvious that there was something very special about this little dog.

“During the night, as Bella became aware that Barry was struggling with nightmares, she licked his neck, soothing and helping him to settle.”

Barry trained Bella to become a qualified owner-trained assistance dog to help himself and ex-servicemen cope.

Since then, the duo have volunteered at schools and hospitals. Barry also gives talks on Animal Assisted Therapies for Palliative Care, End of Life moments, Intensive Care and Children’s Wards.

Barry and Bella from Eastbourne. SUS-211110-152948001

The spokesperson said they went on to become an ‘essential part of the clinical therapeutic team’ within Combat Street – the mental health service for veterans.

Now Barry and Bella can be found promoting veterans’ mental health awareness at every possibility including Brighton Marathon, shopping centres, and air shows.

At Crufts 2019 they were named the HiLife Pets As Therapy Dog of the Year.

In response to winning the award on October 7 Barry said, “I am absolutely over the moon! I only do this work because I want to – we’re trying to help people all the time. I’d like to thank the panel and the people who voted for us – it means a lot to us all!

“On Saturday (October 9) we’re working at Nationwide Building Society promoting Combat Stress and fundraising. Then next Saturday (October 16) we’re out fundraising too.

“We’ll just keep going, obviously Covid-19 has stopped a lot of the work we do – the hospital visits, intensive care, children’s wards – all that stopped, but we’ll still keep promoting what we do.

“As long as veterans are dying from suicide then we’ve got to keep going, that’s the driving force.

“It’s normal to Bella! She’s been doing it since she was nine months – she loves everybody.”

The Earl Howe, Patron of the Soldiering On Awards, said, “These Awards recognise and acknowledge the enormous efforts and achievements from many people across the military community who help and support those in need; volunteers, charity teams, public servants, social enterprises, veterans themselves, individuals, employees… the wider military community is incredibly diverse!

“That help and support manifests itself in acts of kindness, the raising of money, provision of services, tremendous acts of courage or endeavour and ultimately doing great things to support those who have served.

“Our service men and women take part in military campaigns at the behest of the government and on behalf of us all. They deserve not only our respect and thanks, but also our support.

“Thank you to all our finalists, many of whom are veterans themselves, for being exemplar in providing that support.”