KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 ― A six-year-old cockerpoo has been recognised as the “Animal of the Year” by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for the emotional support it provided to burnt-out frontliners during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Therapy dog Jasper, along with owner David Anderson, a hospital chaplain and counsellor, supports more than 9,000 staff at East Lancashire hospitals NHS trust in the United Kingdom, Daily Mail reported.

A cockerpoo is a crossbreed of a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle.

According to the portal, the area was one of the worst affected during the pandemic which rendered Jasper unable to visit patients as it had previously.

Instead, Jasper provided support to nurses and other frontline medical staff.

“Jasper’s role has always been to make people smile and feel better, and during the peak of the pandemic, when everyone was giving so much, sometimes staff just needed to have a cuddle with Jasper, have a cry and go back to the wards,” said Anderson.

“We are thrilled that Jasper has been given this award from IFAW and will ensure he has a few extra treats on the day in recognition of all his hard work!”

Jasper is trained to go to people showing distress or crying and is very perceptive to the emotions around him.

More than 1,000 hospital staff have taken part in ‘Conversations with Jasper’ sessions enabling them to spend quiet time one on one with the dog or in small groups.

UK director of IFAW James Sawyer said: “Jasper is an amazing dog and his work with David and hospital staff is a fantastic example of the positive relationships between animals and humans.”

“When we heard about the difference Jasper was making to the lives of our dedicated NHS staff working during such a challenging time, we knew he would be a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Animal of the Year Award.”

Before the pandemic, Jasper would accompany Anderson to visit patients undergoing end-of-life care, as well as those suffering a mental health crisis or recovering from a stroke.

As NHS staff continue to bear the “scars” from an intense 18 months, Anderson hopes the award will encourage other trusts to look into using therapy dogs.

When not at work, Jasper enjoys being a normal pet, going for walks with his owner at home in Preston and playing with the many toys he receives from NHS staff.