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You’ve been voting for your favourite finalist from the past 12 months and we are pleased to announce that our HiLife Trophy 2017 winner is Tracey Rowland and Rottweiler puppy Susie-Hope.

Their emotional story featured in our February 2018 issue and as winners, they’ll receive the HiLife Trophy and a six-month supply of HiLife dog food.

A huge thank you and well done to all our finalists and a thank you to everyone who voted. The 2018 competition is already underway and you can find out how to enter inside our latest issue.


 

Tracey and Susie-Hope’s story

On 1 February 2016, my world fell apart. My beautiful, special mum was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Mum and I were very close and our bond so strong. Like peas in a pod, my mum always said.

We lived together with our dog May, a 14-year-old Labrador-collie cross. She was our world and had seen us through some sad times, but life can be cruel and just two weeks after Mum’s diagnosis, our beloved May had to be put to sleep. Her legs gave way, nothing could be done, and she went over to the Rainbow Bridge.

I had to carry on for Mum, to care for her, support her and love her. Inside I was gutted, my heart broken and full of fear, but I put on a brave face and tried to stay strong.

As the weeks passed, Mum deteriorated. To see her getting weaker by the day was a pain beyond words. Eventually, she had to go into a hospice, and I went with her and slept in a bed beside her. She said I made her feel safe and loved. To make her room look more homely, I put up photos – mostly pictures of May; our happiest memories were with May.

Mum passed away on 16 May 2016. My world ended. The light switched off. I was alone and scared, and sank into a deep depression filled with panic attacks, crippling sadness, and an awful feeling of terror. I didn’t want to carry on; I wanted to be with Mum and May.

By now the crisis team had become involved through my GP and community psychiatric nurse (CPN). They all strongly suggested I consider getting another dog or puppy – something to live for. I was very unsure, but, through May, I knew the love a dog can bring.

And so into my life came an eight-week-old Rottweiler puppy. I gave her a very special name – I named her after Mum, who was called Susan, so I called the puppy Susie and added on Hope as that’s what I felt I needed to hang on to. So she became Susie-Hope.

At first it was a struggle. A puppy is hard work – even more so when your heart is filled with grief. But I did it. I had to. She needed me. Before Susie, I just wanted to stay in bed, the covers over my head, hoping it would all end. But now I had to get up to make sure Susie was fed, toileted and loved.

As the months went by, we got into more of a routine, and I began to realise that not only was I looking after Susie-Hope, she was looking after me! She is a constant friend, and gives me comfort day and night. When I have nightmares, she’s there; her fur, face and paws provide reassurance, and bring me back to the ‘now’.

Susie encourages me in every way, every day. She’s like a therapy dog to me, helping me through so many painful thoughts and memories. The difficult times are still very much ongoing, and I know they always will be, as Mum and I had such a special bond.

But Susie is right there – the power of the paw! I feel safer with her, and loved. My crisis team noted her as my protective factor, so an extra name was added and she became Susie-Hope-Saviour. My CPN called her that – Saviour: a protector from harm.

Susie has a power no human being can offer – my therapist in fur! She’s a true and faithful friend, and the reason I get up every day. We go for walks and to training classes, and she even came first in a cutest puppy contest, winning a medal and trophy I dedicated to Mum.

Mum spoke about me having a dog. There was a therapy dog who visited the hospice once a week, and Mum said, “You would be so good at that, Tracey, as you care for both people and dogs.”

So that’s something I would love Susie-Hope to train to be. Just her name, Hope, lifts a room, and she has already started working her magic on me!

I’ve also lost count of the times people have said, “Your Rottweiler has changed my opinion of the breed – she is so lovely and loving.” So Susie challenges stereotypes too. It’s wonderful.

Susie-Hope-Saviour, thank you, I love you. My hand, your paw. The love and journeys we will share with Mum and May walking beside us.

Mum and May, I love you. Mum, I miss you each and every day, but I imagine you running in a meadow with May, free from pain, and you both watching over me and Susie-Hope, the beautiful gift you sent me. I hope we make you proud.

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