Freya Baxter credits her dog Dean with helping her to overcome school bullies.

And now she wants to reward her pet of three years with a nomination in the Man’s Best Friend  category of the Friends for Life award at next month’s Crufts.

Freya, 14, from Bullbridge, watches the famous dog show every year but has not yet had the chance to go herself.

“Dean’s a bit nervous around other dogs, which has held me off a bit. I didn’t want him to go after another dog,” she said.

“But I’ve always watched and admired how people’s dogs have changed their life and I saw an Instagram post about the award and thought I would give it a go.

“Even if we don’t win, we’ve participated.”

Freya got Dean three years ago in a particularly rough patch, during which she was suffering from bullying at school and the family dog had passed away.

“My other dog, Molly, couldn’t cope on her own so we got a companion for both of us.”

Typically a fan of bigger breeds, Freya was initially keen on a big, fluffy dog she met at the Dogs Trust in Loughborough. Thankfully, she turned around and clapped eyes on Dean.

“I thought, ‘oh my God, this is the one’.”

Shy at first, Dean first greeted the Baxters with his tail between his legs. Freya instinctively found a sweet spot just below his back and Dean let her scratch away.

“I instantly felt a bond connect,” she added.

“I’m so glad I turned around and saw him, because if I didn’t, who else would he go to?

“He might not have had the same impact.”

Friends for Life is a celebration of just how much dogs change and improve people’s lives. Five of the finalists will got to Crufts, held once again at the NEC in Birmingham, where the winner will be announced on Sunday March 11.

People can vote for the dog they want to win by visiting the Crufts website, with the victor receiving £5,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust to donate to a dog charity of their choice and runners-up £1,000.

Since having Dean, Freya’s school life has improved. She used to take him up to her room and talk to him about what happened at school.

And whenever she was stressed, upset or angry he was the one to calm her down.

“Whenever I cry, he’s always there to nudge his head under my arm and cuddle with me. He makes me laugh.

“He is a funny, loving, kind, protective best friend, who has stayed by my side since day one.”

For Freya, to win the Man’s Best Friend award would be a huge reminder of their achievements together.

“It would be a dream come true.”