A dog gifted to a traumatised war veteran spent months at his hospital bedside as he fought back from the brink of death.
Springer spaniel Irma was the first dog trained by Bravehound, a charity which provides companion dogs for ex-service personnel, and was given to Perthshire man Paul Wilkie in June 2016.
Irma has now been named the most caring animal in the UK at the Animal Hero Awards after helping Paul back to health.
A self-described “broken soldier” who served in the Falklands, Bosnia and Iraq, he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and wakes in a state of terror on a nightly basis.
The PTSD caused a number of physical conditions, including Crohn’s and colitis, which resulted in him undergoing surgery last year.
However the 46-year-old, who spent 22 years in the Royal Engineers, developed the deadly condition sepsis and was in a 10-day coma in intensive care.
So close was he to death the medic seriously considered switching off his life-support machines.
Throughout his ordeal Irma was by his side, becoming a firm favourite with nurses at Ninewells hospital.
Paul said: “I was in hospital for seven months, and Irma was with me for all that time.
“At one point I had 36 hours to live, that’s what they told my children. They were going to turn my machines off. If it wasn’t for the surgeons I wouldn’t be here now.
“They said if I wasn’t an ex-squaddie I would have died – I’m alive because I was so fit.
“Ninewells were brilliant – both with the treatment they gave me and for letting Irma sit on my bed to be there for me. The only time Irma wasn’t with me was when I was in ICU. I have a carer and she stayed with her.
“Irma was getting visits from nurses from other wards – I thought they were coming to see me, but it was the dog they wanted to see!”
Paul was released from hospital in November and now spends his days training and walking Irma, with the pair often joined by Paul’s pet duck North as they make their way round his hometown of Guildtown.
He added: “Irma is a wee cracker.
“She’s changed my life. She deserves the award just for putting up with me.”