THE Staffordshire bull terrier has been named Britain’s top dog.
The controversial mutts topped 217 breeds, including the labrador and springer spaniel, on ITV show Britain’s Top 100 Dogs Live.
Staffies have long had a bad reputation. Ben Fogle, who hosted the show with Sara Cox, had been caught up in controversy too when he was accused of labelling Staffies dangerous – a claim he firmly denies.
Here, AMY JONES reveals the hero Staffies rebuilding their reputation.
‘He woke us up as house fire raged’
AT 3.45am, Jordan Ash was woken by his dog Diesel manically barking, scratching and pulling at the duvet.
Jordan immediately knew something was seriously wrong, as the three-year-old rescue dog’s behaviour was so out of character.
The 26-year-old said: “I jumped out of bed and opened the bedroom door to find flames five or six feet away from us.”
Jordan, from Dartmouth, Devon, raced to wake his parents, Chris, 52, and Tina, 56, who were asleep in their room.
He helped them escape through a small bedroom window over the kitchen roof then went to get Diesel from his room.
Despite being almost overcome by the smoke and fumes, he reached his pet and passed him through the open window to his dad and they all scrambled down to safety.
Speaking about the May 2016 blaze, Jordan said: “Luckily, apart from a few bumps and bruises, probably from squeezing out of a tiny window, no one was seriously hurt.
“We all needed treatment for smoke inhalation but there was no lasting damage thanks to Diesel.
“His whiskers were singed by the fire but we got him checked out by a vet the following day and he was fine.
“The next few weeks I slept on sofas because we couldn’t find anywhere to stay that would take Diesel as well.
“After everything he had done for us there was no way I was going to leave him.”
A fridge freezer was later found to have caused the fire, which damaged the house so badly the family could not move back in for ten months.
The family had rescued Diesel after he was abandoned when just a few months old.
Jordan added: “Diesel saved our lives and I will be for ever grateful.
“I like to think it was his way of repaying us for rescuing him.
“Staffies have a bad reputation but he has the most lovely, placid nature.”
Last year Diesel was presented with a PDSA Gold Medal – otherwise known as the George Cross for animals – for his bravery.
‘Having police dog Cooper on our raids is a great ice-breaker’
RESCUE dog Cooper is one of the only Staffies working for a police force in Britain. In less than a year he has helped hunt down more than £257,000 of heroin and cocaine.
The two-year-old, who was a stray before being rescued by the RSPCA, joined the service in April 2018. He is trained to find drugs, cash and guns – and great at busting negative stereotypes about his breed.
His handler PC Tim Moss said: “I’m privileged to have him – he’s an amazing dog and we have an amazing bond.”
Cooper spent seven months with the RSPCA looking for a home. PC Moss said: “One day he was in the kennels, and now he’s a fully-fledged police dog.
“Owners don’t always have experience with this breed of dog, which can be where some of the stereotypes about Staffies come from.
“Having Cooper when doing a raid is a great ice-breaker. People are shocked we are working a Staffie – as either they have or they know someone who has one.”
PC Moss reckons Cooper is one of the best police dogs in Staffordshire and has become something of an A-lister in his county, being invited on school tours and to meet the public.
He believes the negative stereotypes surrounding Staffies could not be further from the truth.
He added: “Staffies are very unique.”
“Staffordshire bull terriers are so misunderstood.”
‘He saved me the day I saved him – I owe my life to this dog’
WHEN Andy Hutchins left London’s Pentonville Prison five years ago after serving time for burglary, he planned to use the £45 in his pocket to buy a fatal dose of heroin and take his own life.
But a tiny puppy named Bailey changed that. Andy, now 50, bought the four-week-old dog from a woman begging on the street.
Thanks to Bailey, Andy turned his back on crime and drugs – despite having spent 15 years in and out of jail – and is now training to be a social worker.
Andy recalls how he spotted two women using two tiny pups “as small as mice” to beg. He pleaded for them to be returned to their mum – and one of the women agreed to sell him a pup for £12.
He took the dog straight to the vet – who recommended it be put down.
But Andy refused and he kept Bailey huddled close and fed him a diet of goat’s milk and mashed potato. Bailey soon thrived.
Andy turned his back on crime and on his £250-a-day heroin habit.
He said: “Having Bailey made me get my act together. I couldn’t be out of it because I had to protect him and make sure he was fed.”
The first year was tough.
He and Bailey were both attacked. Bailey was shot at and even stolen when he was three months old – Andy had to raise £300 to buy him back.
Then the pair got support from StreetVet, a charity that gives free vet treatment to animals living with homeless people, and co-founder Sam Joseph helped Andy find housing.
Andy said: “When StreetVet came along, they provided food for him and it meant I could get on a methadone programme and rebuild my life.
“When dealers came trying to sell drugs, he’d growl and bark at them. He seemed to know he needed to take care of me.”
Former builder Andy’s life had spiralled downward after taking heroin for the first time aged 30.
His relationship with his former partner and son broke down and he lost his job, his home and possessions.
He was caught in a cycle of crime to fund his habit. He added: “Bailey meant I had a life to be responsible for. He saved me the day I saved him.
“Having this little dog relying on me taught me how to love and trust again and I owe my life to him.”
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AIMEE’S FINAL HOURS
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‘I had just lost Mum. Bindi knew instinctively how to comfort me’
SHE was used as a breeding machine then cruelly dumped at the side of a road.
Yet Bindi went on to help her caring new owner – and five other dogs.
After being abandoned in September 2016, Bindi was rescued by Senior Staffy Club, a charity dedicated to older Staffies.
There she had 13 tumours removed from her body and was nursed back to care, eventually finding a full-time home with NHS worker Vicky Osborn.
Vicky, 38, from Manchester, said: “I’d just lost my mum and we both saved each other.
“It was like we were meant to find each other. Within a week she was my shadow, my best friend.”
But four months later, Bindi’s tumours returned, growing aggressively, and the dog, then 14, was moved to palliative care.
Determined for her last weeks to be full of positivity, Vicky asked the Senior Staffy Club to set up a donation fund, Bindi’s Legacy, to help other dogs with cancer.
Bindi died last September but the fund has since raised more than £4,000 and already paid for operations for five dogs.
Vicky said: “Senior Staffy Club gave Bindi two extra years of high-quality life after a miserable existence and now she is giving a similar gift to other dogs.
“Bindi gave unconditional love, found joy in everything and instinctively knew how to comfort when I felt down.