Michelle Smart, the 23-year-old owner of a Siberian Husky called Rio, fought back tears as her pet was awarded Britain’s most dedicated dog at the Golden Bonio Awards in London this week.

A year ago, Michelle from Uttoxeter, Staffs, weighed just four stone and was diagnosed with chronic anorexia – doctors told her she had less than three months to live.

Michelle’s parents, Pauline and Stuart, believed that what their daughter needed was to be given the will to live. In a last-ditch effort of treatment, they bought Michelle the dog she’d always dreamt of owning, a Siberian Husky – it was a decision which was to save her life.

Rio, who was among 12 national finalists chosen from more than 300 entries, won the award, plus £1,000, for her unconditional love and non-judgemental support of her owner.

Michelle, now a nursery nurse, paid tribute to her pet who she said helped her to come to terms with her eating disorder.

“Before Rio, I had nothing to live for. But she soon changed my priorities and became mynumber one focus,” she said. “I realised that she needed me as much as I needed her and she gave me the strength to carry on. She saved my life – it’s as simple as that.”

Julie Donoghue, spokesman for the awards, which was judged by a celebrity panel, said: “This is a remarkable story, which demonstrates the incredible impact dogs can have on our lives. Rio stood out as a unique example of how dogs cannot only enrich our lives, but also save them. He thoroughly deserves to be our overall winner in this year’s Golden Bonio Awards.”