|A Hellesdon woman’s gentle, much-loved pet has made it to the finals of a national competition to find the nation’s top therapy dog – and needs your vote to win the crown.
Eight-year-old Inca and her owner Sheena Scrimgeor have been making a positive difference to the lives of scores of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust patients from across both counties for the past six years.
Inca, a Labrador-Staffie cross, is a Pets As Therapy (PAT) dog, visiting people in hospitals, and is in the final six of the charity’s PAT Dog of the Year contest.
She and Sheena beat hundreds of other entrants from across the country – including 70 from the eastern region alone – to make the shortlist and now need the public’s support to help them lift the title.
The pair will find out whether they have won on live TV at next year’s Crufts Dog Show, which takes place at the NEC Birmingham in March. Sheena said she was “blown away” to find out Inca had been shortlisted.
“I’m very pleased for the patients as they made a great effort to write lovely statements to support Inca’s entry in the competition,” she added. “The only sad thing is that my mother won’t be able to watch. She thought the world of Inca and loved Crufts and watched it every year, but died in March at the grand old age of 101.
“She would have loved to see Inca up on stage in the arena in front of crowds of people being recognised for the work she does. “If Inca wins, I will dedicate the award to her. I’m sure she would have been proud of us both.”
Staff and patients have been sending messages of support for Sheena and Inca. They include this, from Veronica Rackham, of Thurne Ward, Hellesdon Hospital: “Inca is a beautiful dog with a lovely calming nature. She is gentle and loving and will happily sit and be stroked by everyone. I believed she has a very positive impact on all she meets and I know that her visits are very eagerly awaited and enjoyed by many.”
Sheena and Inca visit Hellesdon Hospital every Monday, The Julian Hospital on Tuesdays and the Norvic Clinic on Fridays, as well as fitting in regular visits to Hellesdon High School, a prison and the University of East Anglia. * Vote for Inca by filling in the form in the current edition of Yours magazine or by visiting www.yours.co.uk/PATDogs. Voting closes on December 31.