A NINE-year-old girl from Ferndown has been named the youngest-ever finalist in the Animal Star Awards for the training of her assistance dog.

Isabelle Bernice has been shortlisted after beginning a social media account sharing the training of her assistance dog, Jessie. 

Izzy and her family first welcomed Jessie in July 2022 to help with her autism, ADHD and pathological demand avoidance and, according to her mum, Carla Baker, it has transformed her life. 

Carla said: "Izzy, because of her complex needs, she used to get overwhelmed and she'd try and run from a situation but since we've had Jessie, she hasn't done it once and now just asks for her.

"Jessie is her best friend because she hasn't got the social connections like most children do."

A gift given to her on her eighth birthday, Izzy had left school three months prior due to finding the environment overwhelming. 

Although Carla described Izzy as 'very sociable and can present herself as outgoing' she said she struggles with demands. 

Carla said: "It was only when she started school that anxiety started to show and then it skyrocketed with attachment issues and separation anxiety. 

"She was diagnosed when she was six as autistic but she didn't fit the autism characteristics and that was due to her pathological demand avoidance which means she can't take demands.

"To go horse riding, (which) she adores, she has to leave the house and that's a demand, put her shoes on, get in the car. This will make her anxious and then overwhelmed and it's a brain response due to anxiety."

Since she has left school, Izzy has focused on training Izzy which has helped her take control of her anxiety. 

Setting up an Instagram page, she was nominated for the awards by a follower. 

Set to take place in Portsmouth on May 26, Carla is incredibly proud of Izzy's achievement. 

She said: "For Izzy it's really confidence boosting, it boosts her self-esteem and this is what she needs."

Follow her Instagram @jessie_assistancedogs_journey.