Horsham’s Lauren Ashby is thrilled to have been voted Young Braveheart of the Year, the annual Crufts award celebrating the achievements of inspiring and innovative young people making a difference for their dogs. The acclaimed award is for really special young dog lovers who have been nominated by the public in recognition of the way that they have overcome personal barriers to achieve success. In January 2017, 14 year old Millais schoolgirl Lauren was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 3 and has since undergone surgery and six months of intensive Chemotherapy treatment, including spells in hospital and travelling to the Royal Marsden Hospital several times a week plus home nursing visits. Three years ago Lauren started agility practice with Billingshurst Dog Training Club with Meg, a six year old Cocker Spaniel/Springer Spaniel cross, and then with Percy, her Cocker Spaniel/Poodle cross – a Cockapoo, aged three, whom she began working with just before she was diagnosed. Throughout all the treatment and procedures she set herself goals and targets to reach with them – training them a few minutes a day when she wasn’t in hospital. Lauren also has an older dog – Devon, a Springer, and she told the District Post: “Dogs always love you, and its unconditional love! My dogs mean everything to me and I really want to work with dogs, perhaps in the police, because I get great enjoyment from being active with dogs.” Lauren’s mother Dominique added: “Lauren had a check up this January and the cancer has returned, resulting in further ongoing invasive treatment. The dog training is a welcome distraction and it was fantastic that we were able to get up to Birmingham for Crufts to see Lauren presented with her award, giving us all a great lift. At the moment Lauren is unable to attend school because of the risk of infection and is having private tuition at home. She would love to graduate onto a course at Plumpton College to further develop her skills with dogs. Meanwhile, we have set our hearts on getting to the 4 day International Dog Agility Festival at Rockingham Castle in August, to revel in all of the events with around 20,000 fellow dog lovers!” Lauren’s schedule is very exacting: formidable treatment interspersed with demanding studying, but she is determined to keep up the agility training with her beloved Percy, Crufts’ award citation reading: “Lauren’s doctors are amazed that she gets herself around the agility course. Her passion for her dogs and the world of agility has given her a purpose and focus, Lauren herself saying that she doesn’t know how she would have managed to get through the year without them or the wonderful community of agility. She even competed whilst on chemotherapy if her blood levels allowed her to be outside. The chemotherapy affects muscle strength, but Lauren somehow still managed to get herself around an agility course. Despite the worst, Lauren is just as determined as ever to channel her love and passion for agility and her dogs to make it through this difficult time.” Lauren Ashby richly deserved her prestigious Crufts award and everyone at the District Post wishes Lauren and her family the very best of fortune, enabling them to fulfil their dreams.