What if we viewed lived experience as an asset? As an asset of professional, economic,…
The weekend before last, from the 6th – 10th March we were at Crufts. Many people had nominated Molly for the Friends for Life award for changing my life, and we had become one of 5 finalists. Then the British public had to vote for us, and the dog with the most votes would win. View our video here.
We travelled up to Birmingham to the NEC, where Crufts is held, on Friday afternoon and stayed on site in the Hilton hotel. It wasn’t exactly disabled friendly for a disabled room, we had to remove furniture so i could get in and I couldn’t get down the sides of the bed so we had to sit me on the end and slide me up, but we had a good weekend nevertheless. Friday night we just relaxed, got Molly used to being there, walked her and went to bed.
|With Jen from Grippy Leads|
Saturday mum got up early and took Molly for a walk while I slept, then she got me up and dressed, into my chair and we went to the NEC to do some shopping. We got stopped so, so many times by people saying “that’s the girl/dog off the telly!” and wanting to stroke Molly and some had their photo taken with us. We educated them all about Dog A.I.D., the charity helping me to train Molly to be an assistance dog, and Molly had a Dog A.I.D. “in training” jacket on for publicity. We met a few friends there, though we didn’t get to meet the lady I’d organised to meet prior to going. We went and found the Dog A.I.D. stall and met Sandra and other Dog A.I.D. partnerships, which was lovely. We also went to the Grippy Leads stall and got Molly a red lead and collar – I can’t recommend the Grippy Lead enough, I couldn’t manage without it. We then went around and did some more shopping. Molly was fantastic, coping with the crowds and noise and all the things going on brilliantly, I am so proud of her. We got some nice bits, including lots of Pet Munchies – Molly’s favourite (one of the only treats she will eat!), some toys and a game, and special super-absorbent towels to use on Molly. We were in there for as long as I could manage and then we took Molly for a walk around the lake and went back to our hotel. I spent the rest of the day in bed, resting up and saving myself for the long day Sunday. My TPN was kept in the fridge area of the hotel so we had to order my TPN up with dinner; they brought it in on a tray like they would the food!
|Mum, Molly and I in the main arena at Crufts during rehearsals|
Sunday we had to be up, ready and in the hotel lobby by 7.30am; anyone who knows us knows it takes us over an hour to get me up and ready, and mum had to get herself ready and walk Molly before that, so it was an extremely early start for both of us, but mum especially. We had a rehearsal at 8am; we went into the collecting ring, Nick Brooks-Ward talked us through the process and then we went into the main ring to understand what would be expected of us for the live show. We walked (well, 3 of us rolled) into the arena in video order; Steven and Molls were first, then Molly and I, then it would have been Conrad and Radley (they weren’t there as it was too much for his children), Lottie and Velvet and finally Julie and Jessie. He did a dummy interview with each of us, which Clare Balding would do in the live show, and we familiarised ourselves with the arena and where to go. I got to meet and chat to Nick, the commentator, who I feel like I know as he does a lot of equestrian events, which was nice. Once the rehearsal was over, we were showed to the Toote Suite, where we would give press interviews at 11, and we were free to shop until then. We went back to the Dog A.I.D. stall but didn’t stay. So many people recognised us, wished us luck and said they’d voted for us and wanted us to win. It was lovely. We also popped back to the Grippy Leads stall to see Jen and Molly and I had our picture taken, Molly modeling the Grippy Leads five loop lead and collar. We also got to meet the wonderful Owen and Haatchi (and Colleen), which was another highlight of Crufts. Little did we know the photo we took contains two winners! I got a fantastic signed book and I’m so glad I got to meet them. We did a bit more shopping and before we knew it we had to go to the Toote Suite for the interviews.
|Little B, Molly and I|
I was interviewed by two people while we waited for the others to arrive, then all of us finalists gathered, except for Conrad and Radley (who didn’t turn up), for photos. It was hard work getting all the dogs in position, looking towards the camera, except for Molly who sat still on my lap and looked where they wanted her to. Next we had individual shots taken of us in front of the Crufts backdrop. I did my video interview first and they said I am great in front of the camera, which is lovely. After that I had a sound recorded interview with a man from the Kennel Club. We waited for a while and then it was time for me to go out and we had shots taken of Molly and I, which I love (pictured above and below). We went back into the Toote Suite and waited, all the other finalists left but we wanted to wait until we were told we could go and whilst we waited an American journalist interviewed me and took pictures of Molly and I. On the wall of the Toote Suite were newspaper cuttings about Crufts, including all the finalists except Molly and I. They even cut Molly out of the photo of all the dogs sitting on a bench. I thought I had no hope after that, I obviously wasn’t getting any attention and so I thought that meant I had no chance. Once we’d finished we walked Molly and went back to the hotel to rest before the big night.
We had to be in the lakeside gallery at 7pm ready to go to the main arena at around 7.30/7.45pm. Once it was time we were led from the gallery to the main arena and we stood in the wing for quite a while, there was a video about dogs in war, a video about Crufts including bloopers and then Mary Ray and her dog “doggy dancing”.
And then they told us to walk into the arena in video order. There were five spotlights in a semicircle and we walked round the back of them and into our spotlight, stopping right at the front. I was so nervous, as was my mum, who was wringing her hands and biting her nails before we came into the arena. One of the Kennel Club ladies told her to stop! Once in the spotlight we could barely see the audience, but we knew there were a lot of people there and then millions watching at home. I had walked Molly into the ring, but once we stopped mum put her on my lap to calm her down. They then played our videos made by channel 4; Steven and Molls first, then Molly and I, Conrad and Radley, Lottie and Velvet and Julie and Jessie. Clare Balding then came and interviewed us one by one; I was second, they went in video order. When Clare came along she asked how I was feeling: I said “nervous but excited” and then Clare asked how Molly was coping, and I said “she’s dealt with it very well, she’s only a baby really” and Clare asked how old she was, “she’s only just one” to which a loud awwwww came from the audience. I then said how she’s changed my life and I couldn’t imagine life without her. Clare then moved onto Conrad and Radley and the rest of the finalists.
Clare introduced Chris Amoo, who opened the envelope and said “and the winner is……Lucy and Molly!”. I was shocked, amazed, and over the moon. I was so happy and proud of Molly, I kissed her and then kissed mum. Clare congratulated us and did a quick interview with us. I thanked everyone who voted, and Billericay Dog Training School and Dog A.I.D. for helping me to train Molly. I’m so glad I could mention them. Chris presented me the glass vase, I did a sort-of lap of honour (I got so caught up in the moment I couldn’t think what to do) and then we went into the collecting ring for press photos and interviews. A man from the Kennel Club interviewed me, only sound recording it. Then a photographer took some photos, some of us together, then individually. He made me wait until last. We ended up chatting about cameras and flashes, which was nice. I then gave a filmed interview (which can be watched here) before we were allowed to go. We saw the poodle win Best in Show, via a little TV in the collecting ring. Then we headed back to the hotel.
We got stopped and congratulated so many times, we didn’t move for ages! People wanted to stroke Molly, have their photo taken with us, to congratulate us and ask us questions. They were so kind, it was lovely. I felt famous! Molly was great too, coping with the large volumes of people stroking her and posing for photo after photo. She’s such a good girl.
We finally made it back to the hotel about 30-45 minutes later. It hadn’t sunk in. I still couldn’t believe it. “Friends for Life 2014 champions” I kept saying to myself. It didn’t seem real. I was, I am, over the moon. How fantastic. I am so pleased and proud of Molly. I couldn’t stop smiling, I am absolutely elated. How can I, the girl who has the worst luck in the world, win something so prestigious? There are no words for how I felt that night. My Facebook was inundated, Molly’s blog got over 500 new followers that night and we had so many texts and phone calls. It is amazing to know how much people think of Molly and I, we won by public vote; enough people voted for us to win. I was so sure Conrad, the ex-serviceman, and his Guide Dog Radley would win. I have the utmost respect for our armed forces. However they are all worthy winners, and I think we each had a fair chance of winning. Competition was very high. I am amazed, humbled, and grateful that so many people voted for us. I couldn’t have ever predicted something like this; nobody could have predicted what Molly has done for me. Money can’t buy what she’s done. She made me push myself harder than I thought possible and achieve things I never dreamed of. She helps me to live the rest of my life, regardless of how much time I have left. She is the light of my life, my hero dog. We live for each other. I’m looking forward to the future again; I have so many plans. I am excited about life again. I don’t think Molly will ever understand how special she is. She has been recognised for what she’s done for me, and nobody deserves it more. Molly, my heroine, companion, best friend.
We agreed on Sunday night that we would do The Alan Titchmarsh Show on Tuesday (11th March). We travelled home on Monday and were inundated with messages and phonecalls. I took a call in the car on the way home and organised with BBC Essex that I would do a live and recorded piece with them on Wednesday at 10.30. Then I did an interview with the Echo, and took a phonecall about being on BBC Look East. It was all go. I agreed to do it all, and what a time I had.
|Makeup done ready for The Alan Titchmarsh Show|
|Outside the ITV studios|
|Chatting to Alan Titchmarsh|
|Chatting to Alan Titchmarsh|
|Alan fussing Molly – I love that they zoomed in on the Dog A.I.D. jacket logo|
The Alan Titchmarsh Show was lovely. We were up there by 10am and I went straight into makeup whilst mum took Molly for a walk. I must say the makeup artist did a fantastic job and I loved the way I looked – I will wear makeup more often (which is a huge step for me, I’ve only worn makeup a few times in my life!). We sat in the green room for a little while before going to the studio to do the rehearsal. We did a quick run through of the show, and we got to meet the wonderful Sarah and Wylie, a rescue dog from Afghanistan who won Scrufts (the crossbreed competition at Crufts) and his owner who adopted him from Nowzad. What a deserving winner he was. If you haven’t heard of his story, please read about him. He’s gorgeous and so friendly, you’d never guess the amount he’s suffered except for the fact he has no ears and half a tail. We spent the next few hours in a dressing room, walking Molly and then waiting in the green room. We sat and chatted to Steve Hewlett, the Ventriloquist, who was on Britain’s Got Talent last year. We also got to meet Fay Ripley, who asked to have her picture taken with us! Not long after that it was time for the show to start so we went into the studio. As we walked past the audience they let out an “awwwww”, they were obviously taken with Molly. The show itself went really well. TV looks very glamorous but in reality it takes a lot of work! Alan was lovely, but apart from the interview we didn’t get to talk with him. The interview went so quickly, Molly was a star. The whole team at ITV are lovely. Due to the disabled access and the cameras we had to stay and watch the whole show and Molly slept through it; she wasn’t at all stressed or bothered by any of it. I was pleased the cameraman kept zooming in on Molly’s Dog A.I.D. jacket, and with how the interview went in general. Before we came home we walked Molly along the Embankment which was lovely.
To watch The Alan Titchmarsh Show for a limited time click here.
Wednesday 12th we had two interviews, BBC Essex at 10.30 and BBC Look East recording for their show at 6.30pm on BBC 1. They both went really well; the latter took 3 hours and we were all exhausted. I also went to an event for Together for Short Lives on Wednesday 12th but that was not related to Crufts, that was to do with me being an ambassador for them.
Since then I’ve developed a nasty chest infection for which I am on IV antibiotics, partly due to me choking on a drink (my windpipe doesn’t close off properly when I swallow) and partly due to overdoing it last week. I’m just starting to improve so I’m sure I’ll be back to my normal poorly self soon. My writing and speaking is going places, lots of people want me to write for them and my book ideas might be in the process of being realised.
To see the BBC Look East clip click here.
Thank you to all 15,000 of you who have read my blog! Some of my blog posts have been republished on ehospice: http://www.ehospice.com/uk/Default/tabid/10697/ArticleId/9393/#.UyisF_3aozV and https://www.ehospice.com/uk/Default/tabid/10697/ArticleId/9296/#.UyisK_3aozW
Here is a recent post on my Facebook:
“Despite this past week life is good. I’m so excited about life.
My biggest fear in life was that I wouldn’t make a difference. That my time will come and nothing will have changed or be better because of me. Prior to being ill, even when I first became disabled, I was aiming for a career in medicine because I wanted to be a doctor and to help people. Sadly that won’t happen for me, but the need to help others remains. I have always said I want to help people, to make the world a better place for others. And I am starting to achieve this.
I gave a speech in Parliament in November, then won Friends for Life at Crufts on the 9th March, my blog has had over 15,000 views, ehospice have republished some of my posts and want me to write for them, my difficult conversations piece is being used in a very important meeting to illustrate a point for National Voices, my Parliament speech has been in the House of Commons and other high places on numerous occasions, I’m doing a piece for BBC Radio 4 over the next few weeks, I’m an ambassador for Together for Short Lives and attend events (including Parliament) for them, and am involved with the National Council for Palliative Care, Help the Hospices and other charities. Plus training with Molly is going great, I’m flying the flag for EDSers, I’m helping raise funds for and the profile of Dog A.I.D. and there is a possibility that I’ll be able to take my book ideas further. I’m so happy and excited! My writing, speaking and campaigning is starting to make a difference.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” (my favourite quote).”
And here are a few of the videos of us and articles about Molly and I:
Molly and I’s Crufts video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2S49Ux00U3Q&feature=share&list=PL-NYHXGNQVn6suhtZRWhwbLgSXsuWHQZo&index=2
Us being announced as winners http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sv1R_LxNvXM&list=PL-NYHXGNQVn6suhtZRWhwbLgSXsuWHQZo&feature=share&index=3
My interview after we’d won http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIq-PUVcLS4&feature=share&list=PL-NYHXGNQVn6suhtZRWhwbLgSXsuWHQZo
Video from BBC Look East http://youtu.be/sOxzuTO7Adk
Molly voted UK’s top dog hero at Crufts http://dogcharityblog.org.uk/2014/03/18/molly-voted-uks-top-dog-hero-at-crufts/
My Molly’s Queen of Crufts http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/11068724.VIDEO__My_Molly_s_Queen_of_Crufts__Benfleet_pup_wins_award/?ref=var_0