When a case of ulcerative colitis nearly killed college student Hannah Gates, her dog Buttons brought her back to life.

In summer 2014, Hannah, from Hazlemere, spent two weeks in a high dependency unit, enduring multiple blood transfusions, seizures and episodes of complete unconsciousness.

When she finally arrived home her energetic Shih Tzu, Buttons, greeted her.

“Leading up to it she was very clingy and looking back on it, it was like she was alerting me to something which I didn’t quite realise at the time,” says Hannah, 19.

“She’s quite affectionate but keeps herself to herself – she’s not really a lap dog. But she was very clingy at that point.”

Having wanted a dog her whole life, Hannah’s begging finally paid off when she was 14.

“I was able to persuade my dad to get a dog,” she recalls. “We did our research and landed on a lucky family whose dogs had mated by chance and they didn’t really realise.

“It was a lovely home environment - we went over and she was just amazing.

“She chose us.”

When Hannah fell ill, she had only owned Buttons for a year, but after that the pair’s relationship went from strength to strength.

“When I got home, she did not leave my side for about four or five months,” she continued.

“If I’d have just shut myself in my room every day for a few months it would not have been great for me mentally.

“Physically, she encouraged me to get up and do stuff a lot more.”

A year after her stint in hospital, weight gain caused by an intense course of steroids prompted a doctor to recommend Hannah pick up a sport.

Not a naturally sporty person, after weeks of research she finally came across something that motivated her - dog agility. She hasn’t looked back since.

Now fully recovered and trying to set up her own photography business, Hannah hopes to reward Buttons’ loyalty with a nomination in the Man’s Best Friend category of the Friends for Life awards at the famous Crufts dog show.

Friends for Life is a celebration of just how much dogs change and improve people’s lives. Five of the finalists will got to Crufts, 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.

“Buttons is truly my saviour and best friend,” concluded Hannah. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”