About Lucy & Molly
Hi, I'm Lucy Watts MBE and I have a wonderful Assistance Dog named Molly. Molly is a 4 year old Working Cocker Spaniel and was trained to become my Assistance Dog with a charity called Dog Assistance in Disability (Dog A.I.D.). Here you will get to know us a bit better.
I'm 23 years old, I have a number of complex, life-limiting conditions and complications, most foremost being a rare genetic or Mitochondrial disease, alongside Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Autonomic Neuropathy and multiple organ failure (type 3 Intestinal Failure and Neurogenic Bladder Failure), amongst many others. My conditions affect every organ system and part of my body. They mean I have fed directly into my heart, called TPN, through a line called a Hickman Line. All of my nutrition and fluid goes through this line, as does most of my medication. I have another tube which drains my stomach, and two stoma bags. I am wheelchair dependent, unable to stand or walk at all, meaning I am hoisted in order to transfer. Though I use a wheelchair, and I have a fantastic, top-of-the-range chair, I am still forced to spend a lot of time in bed.
I was born with my health conditions, I had problems right from birth, but I went undiagnosed, and struggling to live a normal life, concealing my problems from those around me, until I was 11. Age 11 I started to have physiotherapy, but despite this, I continued to worsen. My mum was horrified to discover all the things I had been hiding from her, which were now too big and visible to conceal - the inability to climb stairs, so I would have to shuffle up and down on my bottom, my poor handwriting due to the inability to grip or control the pen, my struggle to eat so I would only eat soft foods, and the fact that my bowel didn't work properly. Not only that, she was deeply upset when I told her that I had always been in pain; until then I did not realise pain was not normal. Mum had always thought I was a 'lazy baby', and thought that my difficulties with things was just part of who I was. Now, we realised there was something wrong, but no one knew what. I became wheelchair dependent age 14, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome a few days after my 15th birthday, and my condition progressed rapidly from there. In 2009 I stopped being able to eat and was fed through a tube, I became bed bound, in 2010 my bladder stopped working so I had to empty it through a special tube, in 2011 tube feeding had failed and I was started on TPN, intravenous nutrition, in 2012 I had my Ileostomy formed, and in 2014 I had another stoma, a Urostomy formed. My conditions are life-limiting, that is to say they will shorten my lifespan, likely quite considerably. This is due to the complications of my rare genetic or Mitochondrial disease, which is currently under investigation. I have to live for the day, do as much as I can.
My life revolves around Molly, walking and training her, and my charity work. I work with seven charities on a permanent basis, and undertake many other projects. My work involves writing, speaking, appearing in videos and on TV and radio, proof reading documents and advising on research protocol. For my work I received an MBE in the 2016 New Years Honours, for services to young people with disabilities, at the age of 22. I received my MBE from His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace on the 9th June 2016.
Molly and I now give demonstrations and talks about her training, how she helps me and about the charity who helped train her, Dog A.I.D. If you would like to book Molly and I for a demo, head over to the page dedicated to that (click here) or if you are interested in myself and my work, head to my website www.lucy-watts.co.uk.
As I have said, Molly is a 4 year old Working Cocker Spaniel. She is my Assistance Dog and was trained by me with help from Dog A.I.D. Here is Molly's story.
Nicknames: Molly Moo, Molly Mischief, Molls.
Kennel Club Name: Steyr Scout
Date of birth: 18th January 2013
Likes: Learning new things, chicken, destructing toys, helping me.
Dislikes: Having her nails trimmed, the Hoover and being washed.
Favourite 3 tasks: Picking up dropped items, undressing me and fetching the post.
Favourite 3 tricks: rollover, beg and high five.
Awards: Crufts Friends for Life 2014, Dogs Today Medal, PDSA Order of Merit.
Titles: Expert Trick Dog with Do More With Your Dog (working on Champion Title).
You can read about Molly's tasks on the dedicated page - click here.
Lucy & Molly's story:
I lost my first dog Ben, and I sunk. With no focus and without the comfort of a dog, I lost all momentum in life, I lost the drive to keep going. After mum decided no more dogs, we soon discovered our house wasn't a home without one. Thus, we found Molly's litter and went to visit them. They sat each puppy on my lap, and they were very cute, but they didn't stand out. Until the final puppy was placed on my lap. This confident little puppy stared up at me, and then marched up my chest, licked my face and then proceeded to steal my neck pillow, despite it being bigger than her. I knew that she was my puppy, and the only name that fitted her was Molly. She was my Molly Mischief - and mischievous she certainly was in the early days!
We brought her home at 8 weeks old in March 2013. She changed my life in an instant. I went from being completely bed bound, only getting up for hospital appointments due to the difficulty my body had with being upright, to getting up every day. It was tough, because my body was none too happy with being upright, but my body slowly adjusted so that I could sit up without collapsing. I went from being in bed 24/7, to getting up every day, and once she was old enough, walking her every day. The four walls of my bedroom had become my prison; but my dog had set me free.
Prior to Molly, people were too scared to talk to me in fear of saying the wrong thing. I felt invisible, because people didn't acknowledge my existence, except from staring at me from a distance. With Molly, however, people were coming up to me and instigating conversation. They'd ask me about my beautiful dog, and I quickly gained in confidence. Suddenly I was being stopped all the time by people; and I, too, found the confidence to strike up conversations with others. From the extremely shy girl I was, I was blossoming into someone who felt able to talk to others, to hold conversations with people I'd never met. I felt a part of society again, and that was all down to Molly.
I had the best summer with Molly, lovely walks every day, meeting new people, going to weekly dog training classes, and learning new tricks. I even taught Molly some useful tricks, such as picking up things when I dropped them, passing me items I pointed to, fetching the post and so on. She also taught herself a task. My mum would often go into the garden on the assurance she'd take her phone and only be 15 minutes; rarely did she ever carry that out, she'd forget her phone and half an hour later I'd be panicking something had happened, and I would call and call and call but she couldn't hear me. Mum one day noticed Molly was acting funny. Molly kept running up to mum, barking and her and then running back into the house. Mum thought nothing of it, but she persisted, barking and running back in, running back to mum, barking and back inside the house. She even tugged on mum's trouser leg. Mum thought she would check what Molly was fussing about, and upon entering the house, heard me shouting. We realised Molly had been trying to tell mum that I needed her, and was persistent enough that she kept doing it until she succeeded. Mum had been outside for over 45 minutes; I had been calling for around half an hour. Molly instinctively knew she had to do something, and that turned into her teaching herself the task of fetching help.
However, Molly's helpful tricks were, to me, nothing more than helpful tricks. I never would have thought they were anything more than that. Then, when Molly was about 9 months old, our neighbours gave us a cutting from a magazine. It was 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 applied, Molly was assessed, and we were accepted onto the scheme. We thrived on the training, having great fun learning new things, we have the most wonderful trainer and Molly picked things up so easily. It was a positive focus for me, too. I had goals, things to aim towards. I had a purpose.
In March 2014, Molly and I were the winners of Friends for Life at Crufts, voted winners by the British public. This was for how she transformed my life, her dedication to her future role as my Assistance Dog and for the way she gave me a purpose and a reason to live. You can watch the videos on our Press and Media page. Molly also received the Dogs Today Medal in 2014. Our training was going well, but disaster would strike.
I became poorly and was in and out of hospital from May 2014 to May 2015. Our training was completely on hold, as I was too poorly to do it. Then, disaster would strike once more, when my mum was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2015 and needed surgery to remove it in May 2015. She ended up suffering a bleed on the brain and a catastrophic stroke. She was in hospital for six weeks, initially completely unaware, no recognition, no communication and very little movement. She didn't know who I was, and that was horrible. However she made progress and came home 6 weeks after her operation, and though she has done well, she now has epilepsy, and she will never be the person she was before. Life will never be the same.
The only thing that got me through that period, was Molly. Everything was going wrong, I had complete strangers looking after me, I had no one to talk to and had to do everything for myself, which mum used to do for me, such as banking, organising appointments and ordering medication, liaising with professionals and so on. I had to do it all with no support. I wanted to give up, I wished I wasn't here anymore, as I couldn't cope with the thought of losing mum as it was initially, and when she survived, then the uncertainty of whether she would be anything more than a vegetable or whether she'd ever be 'mum' again. Molly was the only thing I held on for. Where I had forced my body to sit up to visit mum at the hospital, I started walking and training Molly when I got home from visiting mum. We started training again, and I had light in my life again. Molly kept me going. She'd listen to me when I sobbed how scared or frightened I was, licking the tears from my face. She was there for endless cuddles, and barely left my side whilst we were together. She was my sole purpose, and her training gave me a positive focus away from what was happening.
We started going to agility classes too, and our training was going so well. Then, in February 2016, I became poorly with multiple bouts of septicaemia, and three hospital admissions, and could not even bear light or noise again until May. In June, I received my MBE, recovering just in time, and in July I was walking and training Molly again. In August 2016 Molly passed her Level 2 with Dog A.I.D., and then on the 6th September she passed her Level 3 assessment and gained full Assistance Dog status. This means we got our ADUK ID book, Molly her posh working jacket and she is now allowed to come everywhere with me.
Molly and I are enjoying exploring the world side by side, having great fun and Molly giving me confidence. She is a welcome attendee at my events and meetings, and she loves being beside me. Molly gets so excited when we put her working jacket on, because she knows that means something fun is about to happen, but she is like a different dog as she knows she's working whilst in-jacket. I love having her with me, giving me confidence and making me a little bit less dependent on those around me.
You can find out more about Molly's tasks on the dedicated page (click here).