Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2003 17:10 UK

Lulu wins by a paw

Tory MP Roger Gale and his Newfoundland bitch Lulu
Lulu works as a Pets as Therapy dog
Top dog Lulu, the black fluffy Newfoundland, could certainly teach MPs a lesson about mixing in the real world.

For the prize winning pooch - who has just seized the title Westminster Dog of the Year - is a regular visitor at hospitals and old peoples' homes to entertain patients and residents.

The loveable 22-month old mutt is the canine companion of Conservative Roger Gale, the MP for Thanet North.

I think she's a very good advertisement for animal welfare and a very good advertisement indeed for companion animal ownership
Roger Gale on his dog Lulu

But despite her good nature, on Monday, it was every hound for his or herself, as she saw off fierce competition from nine other dogs belonging to MPs or peers to win the coveted crown.

The competition, in its eleventh year, was held in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament and was judged on character rather than looks.

Praise was heaped on Lulu, who ran on a "Free Slobber For All" ticket, for her work as a Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog.

Reaping her rewards

As well as her trips to residential homes and hospitals, she also accompanies Mr Gale when he is out collecting cash for charity.

The MP expressed his absolute delight at Lulu's success and said he would be giving the eight-stone bitch plenty of treats as a reward.

"I think she's a very good advertisement for animal welfare and a very good advertisement indeed for companion animal ownership," he said.

"She's done lots of things for other people and a great deal for me."

Much missed

Deana Selby, of the Dogs Trust, said the parade had passed off without incident, but organisers had been disappointed that Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who owns a greyhound and a cross-breed, had not taken part.

"I think it would boost his popularity," she said.

Labour life peer Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe's Cairn terrier Bobby took second place in the competition, while Labour MP Vera Baird QC's Bedlington terrier Zack came third.

Dogs and owners took part in a parade around Victoria Tower Gardens and were encouraged to perform any tricks they knew.

Respects were paid to the late Lord Williams of Mostyn, whose Jack Russell Bippy stole the show in 2002.

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