STAFFORDSHIRE Bull terriers, bred originally as fighting dogs, have an unwanted bad reputation.

Painted by some as vicious and aggressive and worth a place on the "dangerous dogs" list, for every negative view, there is someone sticking up for them as loyal and affectionate - with the right training.

One Staffie owner who thinks the world of the breed is Stephanie Ryan from Lanarkshire. For her rescue dog is credited with saving her disabled son's life and is now in line for a national hero award.

When Snowflake started barking and barging into the door of her son's bedroom it was, perhaps, understandable that she was concerned. She had never acted in this way in the few weeks that she had been with the family.

Her son, Ryan suffers from cerebral palsy, epilepsy and lung disease and by all accounts was asleep.

HeraldScotland:

But when Mrs Ryan went to investigate, she found her son was being choked by the oxygen tubes he wears at night and while an ambulance was alerted, she managed to pull the tubes from around her son's neck with her teeth, as Snowflake watched on, appearing to believe her job was done.

Mrs Ryan from Hamilton says that without Snowflake, her son would have died from strangulation.

"She saved his life. Without her I would have just left Ryan thinking he was sleeping," she said.

Now Snowflake is in line for an award as one of the four finalists in a UK-wide unsung Hero Pet award for those animals who represent the Best of British.

Snowflake had a difficult life before she ended up with the Ryans.

She was found abandoned and emaciated in an empty flat after being abused and had a terrible skin condition which resulted in her fur falling out. She was close to death when she was found.

She was rescued and taken in initially as a foster dog by Mrs McCabe and her family but ended up as a permanent fixture following the dramatic event in April, last year. 

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When Snowflake was found

"She was left in a flat for three weeks before she was picked up by the rescue and she was abandoned and unfed. Then she came to me. She was just all scabs. She was close to death when she was found.

"Snowflake was more fond of my daughter Lacey and was never normally bothered about Ryan, because he has cerebral palsy and just would sit in his chair. So he doesn't jump about with her or anything like that," Mrs McCabe said.

"On the day it all happened, we had only had her for a few weeks, I thought we would get a long lie. Then Snowflake started barging Ryan's door and I thought, that's not right."

Given that she was a foster dog and was unaware of her temperament, Mrs Ryan admitted she was wary.

"I actually got a bit of a fright. I just didn't know what she was doing. She didn't normally bother with Ryan.

"When I went in she jumped onto his bed and started clawing at his back like she was digging. It was if she was trying to turn him over.

"So I turned Ryan round, his face was purple and the oxygen tubes were wrapped round his neck. He may have tried to cry but he couldn't because the tubes were so tight. And because he is deaf he doesn't speak."

The alarm on the oxygen tank failed to go off but Snowflake raised the alarm.

“At first, when I ran into the room, I thought she could be trying to hurt him but it was as though she knew she had done what she was supposed to.

"She has never been trained to do that, it just appears to be natural for her.

"So we managed to release the tubes, and Snowflake just then sat by the bed."

When the paramedics arrived, she said they praised Snowflake’s quick thinking and said that if it had not been for her heroic actions, Ryan would have died that night.

HeraldScotland:

Snowflake has since become Ryan’s therapy dog and knows when he is becoming unwell and lets Stephanie know. She hasn’t had any form of training and acts purely from sensing when there is something wrong.

Mrs Ryan added: "She’s changed all of our lives and we’ll be forever grateful to her for her actions that night and she definitely deserves the title of Hero Pet.

“I dread to think what would have happened, had Snowflake not been with us that night. I wouldn’t have my son today."

Snowflake and Ryan will attend The Amplifon Awards for Brave Britons finals luncheon at the Army and Navy Club, in Pall Mall, London, on October 16, when Falklands War hero Simon Weston will present the awards.

Set up in honour of the hearing health firm Amplifon's founder Second World War hero Major Charles Holland, the awards recognise courage and achievement. Animals who have transformed the lives of their owners are honoured in the Hero Pet category.

Staffie facts.

Staffordshire bull terriers were bred in 19th Century Britain as fighting dogs

The breed shares common ancestors with the bulldog, the American Staffordshire terrier, the American pit bull terrier, and the bull terrier

The Staffordshire bull terrier was recognised as a breed in 1935

Its temperament is described as affectionate, loyal and good with children

In July, ministers ruled out any move to put the pets on the proscribed list of dangerous dogs.