For Tessa Eagle Swan, there is no face she’d rather wake up to than her dog Kratu.

The four-year-old dog, a Romanian Mioritic-Carpathian sheepdog mix, has been her saviour since she was diagnosed with autism last year.

After a difficult year awaiting diagnosis, Tessa, 54, from Newmarket, is hoping to reward Kratu with a nomination for Hero Assistance Dog in the Friends For Life awards at the famous Crufts dog show next month.

“The final diagnosis just explained why I have such bad communication with many people, especially my family,” said Tessa.

“It has helped me a lot. I find it very hard to communicate to people in the dog world, and they’re often rude to me.

“I can be quite aloof. I can get on with people but a lot of people judge me and I find it very hard.”

“I had a big lack of confidence and self-esteem. But if I wake up with night terrors he’s there by my side.

“He’s the first face I see in the morning. He’s so happy, he’s full of love, he brings great joy to many people who meet him.

“He’s a great character, full of life.”

Friends for Life is a celebration of just how much dogs change and improve people’s lives. Five of the finalists will go to the 127th edition of Crufts – where every dog has its day – 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.

And this year, for the second time in a row Tessa will take Kratu – one of three rescue dogs she owns – to Crufts to do rescue dog agility as part of a display team.

“Last year he went and he did his own thing,” she added.

“I just sat there and watched – I was a spare part. I watched him flick his hair around and he gave the most amazing performance.”

Tessa has found her calling in dog training. She started when she adopted Kratu, out of necessity more than anything.

Kratu was the first dog in the country to pass his ‘Do What I Do’ exam, and also achieved the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Award before becoming part of the Canine Generation International.

“I can’t believe we did that, I never thought he would pass it,” Tessa concluded.

“Becoming part of the group was a godsend, that was life-changing.”

Kratu is the only rescued Romanian assistance dog in the country, and Tessa is flying back to Romania with him to be an ambassador.

“Many people rescue and don’t train, so many dogs are going back into rescue and being put to sleep,” she said.

“I want to show what you can do with reward-based kind training methods and determination.

“I don’t believe in myself, but I do believe in him.”