A FORMER NHS worker who was left disabled after suffering long Covid has spoken of how her dog has helped her.

Keighley woman Gillian Cowen, 55, worked in the NHS for 22 years before she was forced to medically retire after catching Covid in January 2021.

With the help of her family rallying around her - and with the love and support of her Portuguese Podengo, Walter - Gillian is excited to be heading to the world's biggest show Crufts again next month.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Gillian CowenGillian Cowen (Image: UGC)

“Being able to carry on with the dog showing is just about the only thing from my life before Covid that has continued,” she said. 

"It's been really amazing, he’s really kept me going and keeps me feeling like me.”

Gillian spoke of how Walter changed his character when she fell ill to give her the comfort she needed at the time.

Having never been a cuddly dog before, she was shocked at how he would come and check on her and keep her company at her lowest moments.

“He wasn’t allowed upstairs before I was poorly," Gillian said.

"But when I was bed-bound, he used to come up and check on me. 

“He never used to cuddle me before. He’d like to know where I am but keep an eye on me from afar. But he started jumping up on the bed to keep me company.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Walter changed his character to give Gillian the comfort she desperately needed at the timeWalter changed his character to give Gillian the comfort she desperately needed at the time (Image: UGC)“He could tell if I was feeling particularly down, which I was quite a lot at that time. He’d come and sit on my lap and cuddle me, really look after me.

"Walter is really intuitive and he knows my feelings before I do. He knows when I need him and he's always there for me."

Since falling ill, Gillian's husband and daughters have been providing her with the encouragement she needs to keep going.

She said: “My husband Philip has been amazing. Even though he was never into dog shows before, he’s now the one asking me ‘Have you entered Walter?’

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Crufts is held from 7-10 March 2024Crufts is held from 7-10 March 2024 (Image: UGC)“My whole family has got involved and rallied around me to make sure I can keep attending the shows. My family’s support means everything to me.”

Crufts, run by The Kennel Club, is held from March 7 to 10 at the NEC Birmingham.

Viewers can follow all the action and highlights on Channel 4.