“She’s our world, our lifesaver, our guardian angel,” said Jenny Deakin of her beloved dog Lily-Rose.
It’s high praise indeed for the eight-year-old papillon-cross, but heroic acclaim that is undeniably deserved.
For she has saved not one, but t wo lives, and provides invaluable daily assistance to Jenny’s disabled mum, Tina.
And these extraordinary feats have now earned Lily the title of this year’s Blue Cross Medal winner.
Jenny and Tina, of Brentford, west London, got Lily as a four-month-old puppy. They wanted a pet to simply be a new member of the family, and never did they imagine how much more the then-shy pup would become.
“When we first got her, Lily was scared of everything and had terrible food aggression,” explained Jenny. “But you could see in her eyes that she wanted to be loved and wanted to learn.”
Lily soon realised she had nothing to fear and her incredible intelligence and intuition began to shine through.
She excelled in puppy training classes, became a star in dog agility and established herself as a valued member of her fly ball team. Jenny was also able to teach clever Lily an impressive repertoire of tricks that even landed her an appearance on a TV talent show for pets.
But it was when Tina’s arthritis began to worsen that Lily’s incredible caring instinct started to emerge.
Jenny, a professional dog groomer, said: “When Lily came to join our family we had no idea what a difference she would make to my mum’s life.
“Before, while I was at work and my mum dropped anything it would have to stay on the floor until I returned home; not only would this be annoying for my mum, it would also be a tripping hazard.
“Then, one day while I was home, my mum dropped a dish towel. I turned to pick it up but was beaten to it by Lily. She had it in her mouth and was looking at my mum, and very gently stood up against her legs and put the dish towel into her hand.”
Astonished, they assumed that Lily must have thought it was a game – until the next day when she continued to pick up anything from the floor that Tina dropped.
“We decided that if Lily wanted to help in this way we would train her for the task properly,” said Jenny. “She was so willing but we knew that she couldn't pick up everything that was dropped, like sharp knives and medication, so we taught her to approach a dropped item and to watch until she was given the go-ahead to retrieve. She took to this very well and soon I didn't need to worry so much about leaving my mum on her own.”
Jenny added: “Lily can basically do everything that other assistance dogs can do. She also fetches the phone, slippers and shoes and she shuts the living room door so that mum doesn’t need to get up.”
Up until recently, Lily even helped with the laundry, but the family’s new washing machine is now out of her reach.
As well as helping with household tasks, Lily knows when Tina is in pain, and helps to ease the discomfort.
Tina said: “She knows when my hip is playing me up particularly badly. She’ll come and sit next to me and put her chin on my leg. She helps with the pain, but her just being there just takes your mind off of it a bit and it doesn’t seem quite so bad.”
Jenny continued: “We have no idea how Lily can tell when the pain is reaching burning point but we are so grateful that she does. Once we discovered this we started to get my mum up before the pain reached burning point and Lily would bring her a toy. This always makes my mum smile and stops the tears of pain coming through.”
But it is not just Lily’s everyday assistance that makes her a hero; her owners also say they owe their lives to her.
Four years ago Jenny was eating a biscuit with her tea when she began to choke. Before she knew it she was collapsed on the floor, and said that Lily jumped onto her chest to dislodge what was stuck.
Jenny said: “Lily was on the sofa looking at me and she just leapt and landed on my chest. I had a big bruise for days but where she hit dislodged the obstruction. I think she just knew she needed to do something so jumped.”
Life-saving Lily was again put to the test earlier this year when Tina suffered a heart attack as Jenny slept upstairs.
Jenny said: “Late into the night Lily started barking, which is very unusual. She woke me up and kept pawing at me. As I woke I could hear my mum screaming out for help. I got downstairs to find my mum on the floor.
“Not even a minute after starting to call out she heard Lily barking upstairs. Without Lily waking me I may not have heard my mum calling out. She would have been left on the floor until the morning and no one knows what complications that could have caused her. Lily is even more attentive to her now.”
The panel of judges deciding on this year’s medal winner were in awe of Lily-Rose’s story which shone above all the shortlisted pets.
Sally de la Bedoyere, Blue Cross Chief Executive, said: “With the Blue Cross Medal we want to celebrate the amazing things pets do for us and how they change our lives. Lily-Rose is a perfect example of this and we’re honoured to award her with this medal, we also hope her story encourages more people to see the potential of rescue pets.”
Jenny added: “Without her I certainly wouldn’t be here and I believe she saved my mum as well. Lily is such a big part of our family and has enriched our lives massively. She has saved us and loved us. We owe her so much but all she wants is love. She is truly man's best friend."