Freya Harris showed the world dreams can come true as she battled through cancer to compete at Crufts. Freya, eight, and her “best friend”, Australian shepherd Echo, came second in their Young Kennel Club Handlers class at the world-famous dog show in Birmingham yesterday.
The youngster won the right to compete by qualifying in a regional event…after a six-hour blood transfusion.
She said: “I’m doing it to help people fight and make dreams come true. It doesn’t matter if you win, it is just about trying.”
Freya has endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy, lung surgery and a kidney removal since being diagnosed with stage four Wilms’ tumour – a form of kidney cancer that affects around 80 children in the UK each year – in 2021.
Her parents bought Echo on her return from hospital, thinking she would help Freya get exercise outside. Now, her canine companion never leaves her side.
Freya said: “If I’m having a bad day, she will have a bad day with me, she will snuggle up on the sofa with me. If I go and play out, she will go play with me.”
After yesterday’s show, Freya, of Horncastle, Lincs, said: “I was expecting to finish last and even then I would have been so happy, but there is me getting second place.
“I nearly cried in the ring. I feel very proud of myself.”
Her mum, Gemma, said: “The winner came over and offered Freya her first-place rosette. We turned it down but it was so nice.”
However, Freya nearly did not make last year’s qualifier.
Gemma said: “She had to have a massive transfusion that lasted for about six hours. We didn’t get back home until the early hours, the same day as the qualifier. But she was adamant.”
Freya, who used to help Gemma when she worked as a dog walker, wanted a pet she could show after she started watching Crufts on TV.
She picked an Australian shepherd because “they are cute, they are a good show dog, they are everything you need”. She added: “Echo was the last one in the litter, so we just chose her.”
Gemma said: “Freya has to wear splints to help her walk, but Echo is the reason she would get out and do it.
“She’s got the responsibility of feeding, brushing, everything. It’s a reason to get out of bed, get home from treatment and look forward to the future.
“I know people use the term soulmate or the heart dog, but Echo has just clicked with Freya.”