A schoolgirl who has spent much of the past year undergoing harrowing treatment for cancer won a major award yesterday - along with her pet dog.
Fourteen-year-old Lauren Ashby was voted Kennel Club Young Person Of The Year at Crufts in recognition of her success in overcoming personal challenges.
And the award has delighted Lauren who has devoted all her spare time to training her beloved cockapoo Percy in dog agility.
Lauren, a pupil at Millais School, Horsham, was suddenly struck down by Hodgkin Lymphoma in January last year after discovering a lump on her neck and developing a cough. It was her little pet Percy who kept her going through rounds of gruelling treatment.
And, despite being in Worthing Hospital again just a few days before Sunday’s Crufts final, Lauren was determined to be there.
Proud mum Dominique said: “We didn’t know whether she had won until she got into the ring with the other nominees. It’s a brilliant boost for her.”
Lauren had already been awarded the Kennel Club accolade of Young Braveheart Of The Year - and credited 23-month-old Percy with her success. While undergoing surgery and bouts of chemotherapy, it was training sessions with Percy that she looked forward to. “It kept me going,” she says.
Lauren faces more chemo on Thursday and yet more in April, but she’s already looking forward to another competition - Percy’s first major show - at the South of England Showground in Ardingly at Easter.
“It’s nice that there’s always something to look forward to,” said Dominique.
Meanwhile, Lauren is currently deciding on how to spend her £750 Kennel Club prize. “She has a few ideas with regards to equipment and training,” said Dominique.