A girl diagnosed with cancer at nine says her rescue dog saved her from lonely despair.
Gracie Pope lost touch with mates due to her treatment and the gruelling chemo left her low and exhausted.
But charity Rays of Sunshine granted her one wish – to spend the day at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. And there she met cocker spaniel Ariel.
Gracie, now 13 and cancer free, said: “It was love at first sight. Ariel changed my life. I desperately wanted to bring her home. She loves a cuddle and she has got so much energy.
“Ariel was uplifting after the worst year of my life. In the hard times she was always there. When I got her I was in remission but I was in a dark hole after everything. She definitely helped me out of that hole.”
Gracie is now urging readers to support Battersea’s In From The Cold Campaign, backed by the Sunday People. It aims to make sure dogs are cared for until they find a loving home.
She said: “Thinking of dogs in the cold is awful. I’d adopt 200 if I could.”
Gracie was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2016 at Great Ormond Street Hospital after complaining of backache.
Her dad Derek, 47, said: “When we heard ‘cancer’, the bottom fell out of our world. Life was put on hold.”
Gracie, who has two brothers Kieran, 15, and Ben, ten, spent six months travelling to hospital every day.
“I could be at hospital for eight hours a day. I lost all my hair. It was hard going to school with short hair. I lost touch with all my mates because of the treatment.”
But when Gracie met Ariel, life began to look up again.
She recalled: “She was a stray and had been found wandering around the streets in Kent. I thought she was such a beautiful dog. I fell for her instantly and her, me.
“I had to have an MRI scan every three months. It was scary but Ariel was always there for me, comforting me when I felt low or worried. She was amazing and gave me strength.”
■ Visit battersea.org.uk/sundaypeople to donate to the campaign.
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