A WELLINGTON mini-bus driver who paid for a Ukrainian refugee dog to be re-homed in the UK has now taken her to Crufts to claim a top award.

When she was just seven months old, Cocker Spaniel Adriana was evacuated from her home in Ukraine after the country was invaded by Russia. She spent time being looked after in Poland and Germany after her owner sent her away for her own safety.

It was around this time that 65-year-old Wellington resident Michael Masters spotted a picture of Adriana online, and paid for her to be re-homed with him in the UK.

Mr Masters, who works as a school mini-bus driver, saw the championship potential in Adriana, and by October 2022 she was crowned a champion.

Now Adriana has gone one further and claimed the coveted Best of Breed award at this year’s Crufts dog show in Birmingham, beating more than 400 other Spaniels to win the title.

Mr Masters said it was a ‘big accomplishment for a dog with a special story.’ Speaking to the Wellington Weekly News he said: “Adriana was being pushed from pillar to post before I paid for her to come over, she arrived at eight months old and became a champion in October 2022.

“It is a big accomplishment - I was worried Adriana could be spooked by the clapping and whooping of the crowd. She can get scared by the sound of aeroplanes or motorbikes. But she loved it.

“Adriana loves showing, I left home at 4.15am and got home past 11pm and the next day she wanted to go again.”

It is the second time Mr Masters has taken a dog to a top award at Crufts after a previous successful outing at the dog show in 2002.

Despite her turbulent youth, Mr Masters said Adriana was a “very happy little dog who lives life to the full.”

While Adriana did not go all the way to the Best in Show finale, Mr Masters was pleased that she was able to “wow judges” on the show’s iconic green carpet.