A very special little girl has been honoured by Support Dogs for her devotion to a puppy-in-training after it developed a serious illness.

Five-year-old Erin Smyth from Sheffield was presented with the young volunteer of the year award at the Support Dogs’ graduation and awards ceremony in recognition of her hard work and dedication.

Erin, (pictured below left with Ginny and below right with Miguel) with her parents Laura and Alister Smyth, began volunteering as puppy socialisers for Support Dogs in May 2019, when they received the lovely little bundle of joy that was Ginny, a sweet little female, black Labrador. 

Alongside all the typical difficult puppy behaviours that come with settling a new puppy into family life, Ginny also fell quite drastically ill within the first month of her stay. 

Eventually, Ginny was diagnosed with puppy strangles, a serious condition which is the result of an immune malfunction and meant repeated trips to the vets, strong medication and multiple surgeries.

Throughout the highs and lows of their journey Erin and her parents showed immense love, dedication and determination to ensure that Ginny got the best level of care she possibly could have.  Erin in particular spent time reading to Ginny, giving her extra cuddles and being by her side during her times of recovery.  Ginny then also repaid the favour when Erin herself fell ill and Ginny was there to offer the same love, affection, and cuddles to aid in her recovery.

Not only has Erin and her family provided such a high level of care but they also somehow managed to fit in doing an amazing job of socialising and training Ginny to an exceptional calibre. 

Sadly, due to her health Ginny had to be withdrawn from training, but because of Erin’s hard work she will make the most wonderful companion and pet dog, and has already been rehomed with a new, loving family. 

Somehow, in amongst all of this Erin also managed to find the time to come into the Support Dogs’ training centre to help with socialising and training with the other puppies.

There’s a happy ending to this story. Now the youngster has a whole new canine adventure to look forward to after her mum and dad decided to take on a second Support Dog puppy - step forward adorable black Labrador Miguel!  Ginny and Miguel are already inseparable.