ONE half of Lake District canine sensations Max and Paddy has been awarded the animal equivalent of an OBE.

Max, a 13-year-old English springer spaniel and social media star from the Lake District, was awarded the Order of Merit by veterinary charity PDSA for his outstanding contribution to society at a virtual ceremony yesterday.

The spaniel has provided virtual therapy to people across the world during the pandemic.

PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said: “Max has provided a source of huge comfort – not only to his owner Kerry, but to thousands of people across the globe who are facing or have gone through hard times.

“He has become a true ambassador for the positive impact that animals have on mental health and wellbeing, which is more important now than ever. ”

Max’s owner Kerry Irving, 46, who lives in Keswick, credits the dog with giving him a “reason to live” after a traffic accident left him unable to walk and with severe depression.

The keen amateur photographer began to record their adventures on a Facebook page, Max Out in the Lakes.

After hundreds of requests from Facebook fans who wanted to meet Max, in 2016 Mr Irving had him trained as a therapy dog by Assistance Dogs UK so he could make visits to schools, hospitals and hospices.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Max continued to provide comfort to his social media followers, who were able to join him on his daily walks through Facebook Live.

Mr Irving said: “When I was at my lowest, Max became my reason to live and he continues to make me smile every day.

“Being able to share the support, comfort and joy that Max brings to thousands of people has been a privilege.”

The Order of Merit, launched in 2014, has previously been given to 32 dogs and horses who were specifically trained to perform roles, including as police dogs, medical detection dogs and search and rescue dogs. Max will be the first ever pet to receive the honour.