“He makes me feel like anything is possible,” is how the 13-year-old from North Yorkshire describes the effect her specially trained Labrador has had on her life.
Molly’s mother, Emma Birch, recalled how her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, and Chess seemed made for each other from their first arranged meeting in a park.
“It was like they had known each other all their lives. At that moment it became very obvious they were a very good match. He never looked back, he just ran with her – there was just that connection and bond, you could just see it.”
Molly and Chess were matched when the youngster was 10 through Support Dogs, a national charity based in Sheffield which trains and provides specialist assistance dogs.
Molly’s condition affects her balance, reduces concentration and makes it difficult to walk far without help. It gives her no grip and only sporadic use of her left hand.
The support provided by Chess is remarkable. He shadows Molly around the family home, helps her dress and undress, picks up dropped pens and pencils, fetches shoes and splints, opens and closes doors, and goes for help if needed.
Chess also assists Molly with her balance through a handle on his harness which helps her negotiate kerbs and busy environments, reducing the need for her wheelchair.
Emma said: “Chess has transformed Molly’s life. He is so calm and if it takes time for Molly to do something he will just wait for her. He instinctively takes his cue from her and knows when to help.
“One of the things that really makes me smile is watching them going up steps together. It might seem so minor but it was something Molly used to really struggle with.”
Molly said: “I love Chess, he is my friend. He has soft ears and is always kind and caring.”
Emma and Molly’s father Kevin, who live with Molly on a farm in Barden near Leyburn, have previously organised the Azerley Clay Shoot which has raised a total of £100,000 for Support Dogs over the past six years.
The pandemic hasn’t allowed the shoot to go ahead for the past two years so Emma, Kevin and two friends are walking the 109-mile K9 Challenge along the Cleveland Way instead. They start today and end on Sunday at the North Yorkshire Water Park near Scarborough, which is hosting a Brass and Cake by the Lake event that day, also in aid of Support Dogs.
Emma said: “We’re amazed by what Support Dogs do and the impact they can have on people’s lives. We feel blessed by what Chess has been able to do for Molly. She stands taller when she walks with Chess.”
Donations can be made at: www.justgiving.com/campaign/K9challenge.