A loyal Spaniel has been awarded the prestigious PDSA Order of Merit – the animal equivalent of the OBE – for outstanding devotion to her disabled owner.
Three-year-old Working Cocker Spaniel, Molly, was honoured by the veterinary charity after being nominated by owner Lucy Watts MBE (23). The award acknowledges the tremendous impact Molly has on Lucy’s life and the unique bond they share.
Molly’s medal was presented at the Watts’ family home in Benfleet, Essex, by PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin, who said: “Lucy and Molly share a very special bond so it was my privilege to meet them both and honour this wonderful relationship with the PDSA Order of Merit.”
Owner Lucy suffers with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which, coupled with other health complications, can leave her feeling withdrawn, isolated and unhappy. Lucy’s condition is classed as life-limiting. Prior to Molly’s arrival in her life, she had been struggling to cope with the chronic pain and was bed-bound due to complications.
Molly joined the Watts household as an eight-week-old puppy and immediately lifted Lucy’s spirits. Lucy said: “Molly helped give me something to focus on. Puppies bring so much joy anyway but Molly was like a ray of light for me. She gave me the motivation to get up and out of bed again.”
Before Molly, Lucy recalls that she often felt ignored when out in public. Now, taking Molly out gives her greater confidence to interact with people and she feels they see past her wheelchair.
Their bond was so strong that when Molly was 10-months-old she began working with Dog Assistance In Disability (Dog A.I.D), who help people with disabilities to train their pet dogs to become Assistance Dogs.
Molly’s skills are now a lifeline to Lucy on a daily basis as she supports with everyday tasks that would otherwise be impossible. She can pick up and fetch items on demand, remove clothing, untie shoe laces, open doors and even helps do with washing.
As well as household tasks, Molly also protects Lucy: she warns if her temperature spikes by licking her hands and arms. The high temperatures are an early sign of septicemia, which is life-threatening, so the warnings give Lucy vital time to seek help. Molly also alerts Lucy when her blood pressure drops, allowing her to lie her wheelchair down to prevent a collapse.
Lucy continued: “Molly is the best companion I could ask for. She seems to instinctively know if I’m in pain or not. She never tries to jump up for a cuddle if I’m uncomfortable.
“I’m absolutely thrilled she has been awarded the PDSA Order of Merit. She was never intended as an assistance dog but her devotion to me and her training has never wavered. I would be lost without her.”
The confidence Molly gave Lucy led to her working with charities as an Ambassador and Trustee, which included giving speeches and writing blogs. For this work Lucy was awarded an MBE in the 2016 New Year’s Honours.
Commenting on Molly’s award, PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin said: “PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme celebrates the incredible bond that we share with animals and our latest award is a shining example of that very special relationship. Molly has helped Lucy in so many remarkable ways; she makes a vast difference to her life on a daily basis. It’s an honour to award the PDSA Order of Merit to such a worthy recipient.”
Molly is the fourth dog and fourteenth animal to receive the PDSA Order of Merit since its institution in June 2014. The Medal is awarded to recognise animals that have shown outstanding acts of devotion and that symbolise the special relationship between animals and humans. For more information about PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme visit www.pdsa.org.uk/medals
PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, treating nearly 500,000 pets a year across its 51 Pet Hospitals. The charity strives to improve all pets’ lives through education, preventive care and emergency treatment. For more information visit www.pdsa.org.uk