Meet the Warrington youngsters competing at Crufts

PUBLISHED: 16:26 25 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:40 20 February 2013

Rebecca Gallagher with Diesel, Rachel Ward, Jessica Ward with Twist and Owen Garratt with Sammy

Rebecca Gallagher with Diesel, Rachel Ward, Jessica Ward with Twist and Owen Garratt with Sammy

Training and competing in dog shows has restored eight-year-old Jessica Ward's confidence. Next month she and a group of youngsters in Warrington will compete at Crufts

Rachel and Matthew Ward are the first to admit they didnt know what to do. When Rachels father, Dennis, passed away after suffering from a stroke and Locked-in syndrome their daughter, Jessica, was hit very hard.

A month later things worsened. Jessica was diagnosed with absence epilepsy and was having up to 20 seizures a day. The couple, who live in Warrington, saw their little girls confidence plummet.

Rachel said: Jessica took my dads death really hard. She did everything with him. When she started with the seizures we just didnt know what was going on. She would just zone out.

She was feeling really sad too. It was horrible to see your own daughter go through this.

But now look at Jessica, who turns eight this month, and there is a world of difference. The turnaround has been caused through the work the youngster has done with her dogs Storm and Twist.

The transformation began when Jessica began attending dog obedience and training classes that Rachel holds. Now the pair run the sessions together as well as staging charity dog demonstrations and visiting schools to teach dog safety. Jessica was enjoying it so much that Rachel and Matthew, who are also dog show competitors, decided to get their daughter her own dog so she could also compete. The youngster, who now trains with her mum as well as with the Wilmslow Nippers Club and the Carry Ons Flyball Team in Congleton, has not looked back.

She has already enjoyed success, including coming third with the Congleton team at the European Flyball Championships and winning a raft of rosettes at various competitions around the country. She was also shortlisted and came third in the Young Kennel Clubs Outstanding Achievement Award where she was recognised for her work in the community.

Rachel said: Im so very proud of her. We feel like we have got our little girl back. Its been amazing. We were really worried and didnt know what to do.

She has always been full of positivity and full of fun. Now, we have our Jess back and we are just trying to keep up with her.

Next month Jessica, a pupil at St Elphins CE Voluntary Aided Primary School in Warrington, will join other Cheshire youngsters from Wilmslow Nippers to compete at Crufts in Birmingham. She will take part with her collie, Storm, in the flyball division against participants aged up to 25 as well as in the heel to music and grooming 12 and under categories with, Twist. The latter dog, a jack russell and poodle cross, was formerly owned by Britains Got Talent finalist, Kate Nicholas. Jessica will be joined by 12-year-old Owen Garratt from Sankey and 11-year-old Rebecca Gallagher, from Latchford.

You might think that taking part in such a prestigious competition would make the eight-year-old nervous. Not a bit of it. She cannot wait to get started.

She said: A lot of people go and watch the competition but its not very scary for me. Im practising all of the time and I teach Twist lots of different things and he does a really good dance. He is dancing to Everything I Do by Bryan Adams at Crufts.

It would be really good to win but it doesnt matter. Its just about taking part. Im really looking forward to it. My favourite thing is spending time with Twist. We have a really good time, he is my best friend.

Jessica Ward Fundraiser - 2nd February 2013

A message from Jess and family

Hi All,

As you know 7 year old Jess from Warrington has qualified for Crufts 2013 in 3 different categories.Jess has had a personal struggle for the last 2 years and it's a huge achievement that she has battled bereavement and epilepsy to get where she is today. Jess does a lot to support many charities, performing, fundrasing but now it's her turn.

Jess has been through a lot to get here but unfortunately after her last competition her grooming table was stolen and she has had to borrow one from a friend.

A grooming table costs c. 130 for a middle of the range table perfectly adjustable for her height and with a H-Frame.

Jess has been trying to raise money for a new one. She has sold some of her toys on e-bay and has now decided to do a fund raiser.

We have spoken to the Village Hotel Leisure Centre and Jess will be completing a mini biathlon there. 1 mile on the treadmill walk/jog, 1 mile on the exercise bike and 20 lengths of the pool on 2nd February 2013.

Jess is hoping you will be happy to donate to her cause. She has agreed that any money left over will go to the St Roccos Hospice in Warrington.

For more details contact Tel. 07519 229449

Latest from the Cheshire