Miniature schnauzer Herbie, along with his owner Alex, was a very welcome visitor to The Elias family

He helped bring normality and fun back into the home after Charlotte’s long and difficult treatment for a high-risk neuroblastoma.

Charlotte was diagnosed at just 18 months old.  After chemotherapy, she had an operation to remove the tumour, followed by a stem cell transplant, then radiotherapy and finally immunotherapy. For almost two years Charlotte’s treatment protocol meant she was in hospital for long periods of time, isolated from any risk of germs.

Mum Natalie explains: ‘There was no way she could have gone anywhere near a dog, let alone have one in the house to pet and cuddle. So for Charlotte to have the opportunity to be able to enjoy and play with a dog once she had finished her treatment was wonderful. It gave her so much joy. For me it was wonderful watching her express herself like a normal child, after all she had been through. Just seeing her face every time Herbie came in, full of life and running around the garden playing ball with him, was amazing.’

Thank fully Charlotte is now in remission, however her illness took its toll on the whole family, says Natalie.

‘All the time she spent in hospital and all the time we spent there as well…my middle son Benji, was really impacted emotionally. Herbie’s visits have been just as important for him as they have for Charlotte. Benji suffers from a lot of anxiety now, worrying about things that a child his age just shouldn’t think about, and Herbie’s visits really calm him. For that hour Benji gets to be a normal kid having fun with a dog. It’s been wonderful to see the difference it makes to both the children. Even my eldest son, who is joins in and we get all the pleasure of a dog without the responsibility. It’s been really therapeutic.’