Published: 13:00, 07 March 2018
A teenager whose dog helped her overcome her anxiety issues says it will be a dream come true if they win at Crufts this weekend.
Josie Baldwin, 16, of King Street, Deal, and her five-year-old Maltese Shih Tzu cross Jack, have qualified for a place in the prestigious 125-year old dog show as well as Scruffts, a strand of the competition for crossbreeds, only established in 2000.
The pair are one of just six from around the country competing for the Good Citizen Dog award at Scruffts on Saturday.
They qualified after winning heats in Essex and then London, beating off competition from 1,500 others.
The Goodwin Academy sixth former and her pet have a special relationship because the hound has helped her overcome anxiety issues and build confidence.
It is their touching story which she hopes will impress celebrity judge, comedian Alan Carr.
She said: "Scruffts is all about you and your dog and the bond you have.
"I got Jack as a puppy five years ago and we got him in the summer holidays so we could really bond.
"Training with him has really built that bond.
"Before Jack, I was scared of people. I couldn't really talk to anyone but it's all changed now.
"When you're going to shows you have to talk to the judges and the stewards. Basically because of Jack I've had to talk to people.
"If it wasn't for him, I think I'd still be the same."
The pair have already met the Chatty Man host so he could witness their bond first hand. It was also a chance for them to show him a trick or two.
She said: "I got Jack to lie down and I put a treat on his paw. It has to stay on his paw until I tell him to get it.
"Alan was fascinated by it."
It was after relentless pleas, Josie's parents Debra and Colin Baldwin finally gave in and let their daughter have a dog, purchasing Jack as a puppy from near Dartford.
One condition was that Josie trained him, prompting her attendance at Happy Hounds training classes in East Langdon.
They started with obedience sessions and soon moved up through the classes before entering competitions. Josie said they have since won "too many to count."
They still attend the classes about three times a week with Josie helping trainer Denise Coyle out on Thursdays.
The day before Scruffts, Josie and Jack will compete in Crufts in the Special Pre-Beginner Young Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog category against 14 others.
Tasks will include a one-minute stay, a re-call, heel work and a gate exercise.
Josie said: "I'm excited. Jack loves performing and he loves being the centre of attention.
"He's just an amazing dog. It will be amazing if we win. A dream."
They will have plenty of support with a number of friends and family travelling to watch.
Josie's mum, Debra said: "Josie and Jack are best friends. He follows her around and sleeps on her bed.
"She used to be shy and but having Jack has certainly made her more confident.
"We're very proud of them both."
The excitement doesn't stop there.
About a week after the competitions, Josie and Jack will feature in a Channel 4 documentary along with the other five finalists.
Camera crews have been following her journey in the competition since the early heats.
The show will also include clips from when Josie and Jack met the Mayor of Deal Cllr David Cronk at Deal Town Hall as well as her at home and with Alan Carr.
Pick up next week's East Kent Mercury to see how Josie and Jack got on.
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