GUINEA pigs and a Staffordshire bull terrier are among the animals honoured in a vet’s best pets of the year competition.

Coastway Vets in Brighton held its first Pet Awards to “celebrate the special bond between owner and pet”.

The veterinary group asked clients to send in stories of how their pets have helped them cope with the uncertainties and difficulties of 2020.

There were categories for all family pets to enter – best dog, best cat, best rescue pet and best exotic. An overall best pet was chosen from the four.

The Argus: Stella the Staffie was named best rescue petStella the Staffie was named best rescue pet

Staffordshire bull terrier Stella won the award for best rescue pet after helping her owners combat PTSD, illness and anxiety while overcoming her own issues.

She had previously been discovered in the street while pregnant and Coastway in Lewes looked after her.

READ MORE: Adorable pictures of readers pets during Covid lockdown

Owner Sarah Akehurst said: “When we rescued Stella who was found in the street she turned out to be pregnant and Coastway helped us deliver her puppies. She was an excellent mum even though she was scared and unsure and didn’t know us at all.

“After the puppies left we got to know Stella and took a while for all of her lovely quirky crazy loving behaviours to come out and for her to relax but even from the beginning she was always there for me with my anxiety.

“Every time I felt sad or was struggling with my mental health she was there by my side, she would push herself on to me as much as she could to keep me feeling safe and if I cried she would always want to clean up my tears.

“This autumn I had an accident and got concussion, it’s been a scary and difficult time and she has been with me the whole way, lying with me for days at a time on the bed when I couldn’t do anything; being right there next to my face at night when I couldn’t sleep and if was panicking she just came and put her whole weight on me as if to cuddle me and tell me it was OK.

“I’m still recovering and she’s still here with me every day. She’s my rock and my safety blanket and we can’t imagine life without her.

“My partner suffers from combat-related PTSD and when he has a bad day, she will lick his entire head, making sure he’s OK and that he feels all right – she’s one in a million and although we rescued us, she rescued us right back every day.”

The Argus: Daisy and Drew won the best exotic pet categoryDaisy and Drew won the best exotic pet category

Two guinea pigs came called Daisy and Drew came tops in the best exotic category.

They were chosen for helping their owner, Shirley Bass, cope with having Covid, the stress of being furloughed and being made redundant.

READ MORE: Dog shows how face masks should be work to stop Covid spread

Ms Bass said: “My guinea pigs Daisy and Drew are very tame, lots of fun and have kept me going through getting Covid, being furloughed and being made redundant.

“I live on my own and when I contracted Covid and my family could not visit me and could only deliver shopping outside my door, the guineas gave me a reason to try and get up and keep going as they needed to be fed and cleaned. During recovery, sitting and cuddling and stroking them was very calming and reassuring.

“Every morning when I get up they are at their cage wanting their morning treat of blueberries and I chatter away to them, they are great listeners they are non judgemental and they always look interested in whatever I say.

“Daisy and Drew are also working guinea pigs as I am an Animal Assisted Therapist and use them in the counselling sessions.

“They have adapted to working through Zoom and have been a great help to my clients, often bringing a smile to even those who are suffering with great anxiety during these difficult times.

“Please don’t under-estimate the rewards a small animal can bring to their owners and to others.”

The Argus: Romeo was named best catRomeo was named best cat

Romeo Lawrence won best cat after recovering from a serious illness this year.

He was rushed to the Kemp Town branch of Coastway with breathing difficulties during the first lockdown in March.

READ MORE: Coastway Vets donates 'hundreds' of items of PPE to the NHS

Owner Janine Lawrence said: “Our cat Romeo he was born the same day and pretty much the same time as my youngest son Ashton, so it makes him very special to us as he’s Ashton’s twin.

“He was struggling to breathe and my son Callum, who relies on Romeo for company and general moral support as he suffers very badly with his mental health, rushed him in and Romeo stayed in for nearly a week.

“It was very touch and go the first couple of days but he pulled through.

“After a week in hospital he came home much to the relief of us all, especially Callum.

“He now has a kidney disfunction but is enjoying being a house cat and being spoilt rotten.

“Callum says that he couldn’t have got through this pandemic without Romeo and he is his best mate and his rock. That’s why we think Romeo is the best cat ever.”

The Argus: Hercules was named best dog and best overall petHercules was named best dog and best overall pet

Best dog and overall best pet was named as Hercules, who calmly supports the work his owner Stephanie Smith does with people who have learning issues and suffer from mental health conditions.

Ms Smith said: “Hercules has brought so much joy and happiness to the 90 clients I support within my services, they suffer with mental health conditions and learning disabilities. He has become an unofficial sensory dog. The clients feel connected to him and he is now a focal point of their daily lives.

“We have a special ‘the adventures of Hercules board’ where clients make photo requests.

“Hercules has been dressing up in various outfits for Easter, Pride, Mental Health Awareness Week, Halloween and elf on the shelf adventures for December. We have even been donating treats, facilitating story time via video chat and many more virtual activities.

“Hercules is providing love and comfort to those who are vulnerable and in need.”

READ MORE:'Don't abandon your cat during Covid lockdown' - adorable kittens dumped in barn

Speaking about the awards, Coastway operations manager, Sara Heasman said: “Our clients had told us some really lovely stories about how important their pets had been to them this year and we thought, why not share them with the local community and try to finish the year positively.”