To follow Molly's blog go to www.facebook.com/mollydogwithablog
Kennel Club Name: Steyr Scout
Breed: Working Cocker Spaniel
Parents: Tawnyhill Lenny & Oak Grove Mist
Likes: Helping me, working, long walks, doing tricks (her favourites being rollover and beg), cuddles in bed, playing fetch, swimming and tummy tickles
Dislikes: Having her nails trimmed, the Hoover and being washed
Awards: Crufts Friends For Life 2014 winners and a Dogs Today Medal winner 2014
Also: Molly is my ADUK-accredited Assistance Dog via Dog A.I.D. and Molly is a Do More With Your Dog - Expert Trick Dog (ETD) title holder
Molly came into my life after I lost my first dog Ben, whom I adopted when I was 12, and mum said no more dogs but I lost all momentum and had no focus outside my illness. We found Molly's litter online and went to meet them. All 7 puppies were gorgeous, three bitches and four males, but one puppy stood out from the others. Whilst the other puppies laid quietly on my lap, one puppy, as soon as she was placed in my lap, marched straight up my chest, licked my face, stole my neck pillow and played with it; this puppy became our Molly. We brought her home at 8 weeks old, and she changed my life right from day one.
I went from rarely going out to getting into my wheelchair every day and playing with her, and once old enough walking her every day and going to training classes one day each week. I went from having no life and little interaction with other people to getting out with Molly and meeting people on our every day walks. She truly changed my life. We enjoyed long summer walks, I taught Molly tricks, we'd play together and then collapse back in bed and lie together and relax. Molly gave me confidence that would prove crucial as time went on. Molly was my pet, and we just enjoyed every minute of having her.
When Molly was 8 months old our neighbours gave us a cutout from a magazine about a charity called Dog Assistance in Disability (Dog A.I.D.) who help disabled people train their pet dog to become their assistance dog. We thought it would be great if Molly could help me, and we applied. About a month later Molly was assessed, and passed with flying colours, we were accepted onto the scheme and we started training with our Dog A.I.D. volunteer trainer, Midge. Molly and I both loved the training, and had great fun learning new things together. We won the Working Partnership Trophy at the dog school we attended general obedience classes at, and life was great.
I nominated Molly for the Friends for Life competition at Crufts, the world's biggest dog show, and in January 2014 we found out we were one of five finalists. We went to the Kennel
Club headquarters to launch the competition on the 18th February and Crufts itself came up thick and fast. We had an amazing weekend, and the British public really got behind us, voting us winners of Friends for Life 2014. It was a whirlwind of media requests after that, with newspapers and websites around the world publishing the story, and we appeared on The Alan Titchmarsh Show and Look East. It was truly magical, something we will never forget. And less than 2 months later, Molly was awarded a Dogs Today Medal.
The confidence I gained through Molly meant that, when I was asked by a charity to give a speech. I accepted the role, much to the surprise of mum knowing how painfully shy I'd always been, how I'd usually avoid something like that at all costs, and having never given a speech before in my life. I surprised myself, too. This speech wasn't just any speech; I would be giving a speech at a reception in the Houses of Parliament, in front of over 100 people comprising MPs, eminent professionals and charity representatives. Talk about starting at the top! My speech went well and this would forever change the course of my life.
Life was going really well, Molly's training was progressing, my charity work was taking off, Molly's blog following was growing and life was great. However disaster struck, after all the wonderful things that were happening, I became very poorly and was in and out of hospital and having a really rough time. I was too poorly go get out of bed most days, and my condition was deteriorating. I ended up having a few different surgeries, each with their own complications, I fell out of bed and badly broke my hip and I suffered two nasty infections in the line into my heart and other infections; at one point I was battling 5 different infections in one go. Between May 2014 and May 2015 we did nothing. It was a really rough time for us all.
However life would deal is another cruel blow: my mum, my carer who learnt various specialist medical techniques necessary to keep me alive and at home was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2015. Her surgery was booked for 3 weeks later, and she suffered both a bleed on the brain and a stroke a matter of hours after the surgery in May 2015. She now has seizures. I managed to push my body hard so I could visit mum in hospital, and doing so built up my strength. After spending the first few weeks living at the dog sitters whilst I got familiar with my new ITU nurses and overnight carers, Molly came home with me during the day, and I was walking and training her again. She's the only reason I coped after mum's complications. I've been through horrific things in my life, but mums tumour and complications, seeing my mum combative, unaware and not even recognising me for a few weeks; that's the worst thing I've experienced, alongside witnessing mum's first seizure which I still get nightmares and flashbacks about now. Molly has been my saving grace since mum's diagnosis. Mum came home from hospital 6 weeks after her surgery and complications, but life will never be the same.
Molly and I passed our Dog A.I.D. Level 1 having started training again, and we were progressing well. Molly and I also started going to agility classes in November 2015, having had a one-off lesson in 2014. Then I received an MBE in the 2016 New Years Honours for my charity work, at the age of 22, which is a huge honour and achievement. We had lots of plans, we were having fun, achieving a lot and life was great in terms of Molly and I. However, as always, the good doesn't last and in February 2016 I became very poorly and fought multiple battles with septicaemia, was in and out of hospital and for 3 months unable to bear any light or noise, I couldn't even use my phone to send a text or have a proper conversation. That went on until May, and from July onwards I was walking and training Molly every day once again.
We passed our Level 2 with Dog A.I.D. In August 2016 and we were working hard on our Level 3. Then on the 6th September 2016, Molly and I passed our Level 3, gaining Molly's working jacket, ID booklet and access rights. We are really enjoying exploring the world side by side, she makes such a difference to my life.
Molly and I have also been doing trick titles, Molly has achieved her Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert Trick Dog titles from Do More With Your Dog and are working towards our Champion (TDCH) title. We've also done up to Silver Title with Bella's-Trix Club and Level 3 with Tricks With The Tricky Trio.
Molly is making such a difference to my life, she is my world, my reason to be, my companion, my best friend and my carer on four legs. Her assistance tasks are:
- Picking up dropped items
- Fetching the post
- Undressing me
- Fetching items
- Passing notes between me and others
- Fetching help
- Closing doors
- Pressing door and lift buttons
- Fetching my medication pouch
- Carrying items for me
- Loading and unloading the washing machine
- Pulling my blankets off my lap
And we are always finding new tasks that she can learn to do to help me.
Molly, though not trained, also alerts me 3-4 hours before my temperature spikes, by incessantly licking my hands and arms - she won't stop, she will dig them out from under blankets or shut my laptop to get to them. This is something that comes naturally to her, and she's never wrong - I just don't always pay attention to her alerts, and realise later when I become very poorly that she had been warning me of what was to come. My immune system doesn't recognise infections until I become extremely poorly, and within a matter of hours I can develop sepsis and end up being rushed to hospital by ambulance under the sepsis protocol, taken to resus, blood cultures taken, stat antibiotics, IV paracetamol and IV fluids given and close monitoring. I have battled sepsis more than 12 times in the last few years, and considering sepsis kills 44,000 people a year in the UK, I'm very lucky to have survived so many times. I have a permanent Hickman line which sits just inside my heart and is tunnelled through the skin on my chest. This line gives constant IV access for my TPN (intravenous nutrition), IV fluid and IV medication which I depend on for survival, and I have home ITU nurses who administer these and care for me. However these lines are prone to becoming infected, and as they give access directly into the heart, any bacteria that gets into my line is pumped round my body in seconds. These line infections can and frequently do kill people. I also have three chronic, multi-resistant infections in my body which can flare up at any time. I get very few if any early warning signs of an infection, and by the time I do, I'm very poorly. So Molly helps to keep me safe by letting me know I am to run a temperature up to 3-4 hours before my temperature reaches 38 degrees.
So this is Molly's story, my world, my reason to be, my companion, best friend, partner in crime and my four legged carer. She is an amazing dog, she loves her job, she loves to help, and I'm very lucky to have been able to enjoy the training process with her, thanks to the support of Dog Assistance in Disability (Dog A.I.D.).
You can follow Molly on her blog here - on which Molly keeps her followers up to date with her antics and adventures.
And her YouTube here - on which we put vlogs and videos of our adventures together, trick videos and more.
To learn more about Dog A.I.D. (Assistance in Disability) click here.