Pet of the Year announced

THE Mercury has announced the winner of its Pet of the Year competition. Meet Alfie, the Jack Russell, cross Papillion.

A Jack Russell cross Papillion, Alfie has been a devoted companion to Sheila Tungate, 79, for five years.

And last week, she discovered that he had come top in what was a close-fought race, garnering 170 points to narrowly beat second-placed Molly, who had 160 points.

Sheila, who lost her husband Ronald 18 years ago and lives in Great Yarmouth, said: “It could get quite lonely, and I was looking for a little dog.

“I fell in love with him straight away when I first saw him.”

However, the pair’s close-knit friendship nearly didn’t happen, as the woman selling him decided that she had changed her mind at the last minute.

“When she called up to say that I was really upset, but for some reason she changed her mind a few days later.

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“When she called, I was washing up and down went the dish cloths – I raced over there straight away.”

Since that time, the once timid mongrel thought to be nine years old has made friends with everyone he encounters.

Described as intelligent and friendly, Alfie often stashes food away around the house.

And his popularity means he can even get away with accompanying his owner to the Five-0 Club on to the bowls green at Northgate Hospital.

“He came with me as soon as I had him and he never runs on to the green. He will just sit behind me when he isn’t being cuddled, which he loves.”

And when not watching the play or sleeping in his doggy pyjamas on a blanket on Sheila’s bed, he is likely be found running around on Yarmouth beach or staring out of the window waiting for nine-year-old Faye Bernard, who lives just down the road and pops in to see him most days.

She said: “He is fun and playful and he doesn’t bite. When we take him to Fritton Woods, we ask him which way to go and he takes us to the swings.”

The news that her beloved pet had won the contest came as a surprise to Sheila, who has lived in the area all her life – though she knew he had a lot of support.

She added: “I can’t imagine life without him, and I think he’s absolutely gorgeous. He’s like a person to me now, and he is so popular with everyone.”

Voters for Pet of the Year could cast two votes, with ten points awarded to their first choice, and five points awarded to their second.

Alfie and Sheila will receive a framed A3 photo of Alfie supplied by the pet photographer Terry Pover, an engraved cup, and other goodies.