By Niamh Shackleton
A tiny pooch has defied the odds to become a heroic assistance dog for her young owner after a rare condition left her disabled.
Willow – a white Bichon Frise mix – defied sceptics who thought she was ‘too small’ to help owner, Ruth Spurr, 24, by becoming her full time assistance dog.
Ruth – who suffers with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome [EDS] type three – which affects the connective tissues in her body as well as her heart and immune system – couldn’t be prouder of her pet’s success.
From fetching Ruth’s medication to retrieving her house keys, Willow has surpassed all expectations to become the best assistance dog Ruth could’ve asked for.
And last June, Willow even saved Ruth’s life by placing her mobile phone on her chest so she could call for an ambulance after falling unconscious.
Ruth from Amserham, Buckinghamshire, said: “I didn’t get Willow with the intention of her being my assistance dog but as my need grew, it seemed like the best option.
“It wasn’t until a close from of mine mentioned about a charity called Dog A.I.D, which trains pets to become assistance dogs, that I seriously considered training Willow to become an assistance dog.
“A few of my friends and family didn’t think she’d be able to train like other dogs as she was so small but she proved them all wrong.
“I did some basic obedience training with Willow, but when I officially got the Dog A.I.D training books, we completed her training in just five months making us one of the fastest to do so!”
“It’s safe to say having Willow as completely transformed my life.
“Prior to her, I was really struggling to see hope beyond my illness with my constant hospital visits and trips in intensive care.
“I wasn’t living, I was just surviving, Willow gave me hope, purpose and independence which is more than I could ever ask for.”
Willow – a Tibetan Terrier and Bichon Frise mix – was adopted by Ruth in 2016 before saving her life last year.
Ruth, who often volunteers at local Brownie and Guide’s groups, added: “I suffered a severe burn and collapsed on the kitchen floor.
“I woke up a few minutes later to find Willow lying on my chest with my phone in her mouth that she’d retrieved for me from the lounge so I could call an ambulance.
“Following the incident, I spent 12 days in intensive care as my illness means I bleed and bruise a lot easier.
“The burn took longer to heal and was more severe than it would be for an ‘average person’ and I developed infections and sepsis again whilst there – I have had sepsis nine times now.
“Willow really is my real-life hero.”
Willow also helps Ruth by opening doors, helping her undress, and even grabs a tissue for her nose if she sneezes.
She said: “She is always on hand to pick up anything I drop when in my chair and she knows specific items like ‘find medicines’ or ‘find drink’ – she can fetch these from anywhere in the flat no matter where I’ve left them last.
“We’ve also trained her to fetch my alarm when I collapse and find help if I’m unconscious, like she did back in June.”
Willow was trained by Dog A.I.D worker Laura Ward, alongside Ruth, who loved working with the inspirational duo.
Laura added: “I am so proud of Ruth because the standard that she has reached with Willow is the sort of control and obedience that most owners would only dream of.
“With the challenges that she has to face everyday due to her medical condition, this is testament to how hard she has worked.
“They have a loving and strong relationship, and Willow has saved Ruth’s life on a number of occasions by taking her training to the next level and using her initiative.”