A Hearing Dog that has given a deaf woman too scared to go out alone her life back has been honoured with a major animal award. 

Lucy Higgins, from Worcester, was so anxious and depressed she even used to try to limit her waking hours before she got five-year-old cocker spaniel Wilbur. 

Lucy, 41, says her “little ray of sunshine” has turned her from someone who always said no, into saying yes to the world. And she’s thrilled Wilbur has been named runner-up in Vets Now’s Pet of the Year Award, run by the UK’s leading provider of emergency pet care. 

Wilbur sitting on grass with his trophy

A rare form of vasculitis, Granulomatosis with Polyangitis (GPA), robbed Lucy of her hearing at the age of 17 and left her with mobility issues and other serious medical problems. 

“I was completely healthy and studying at college when it hit and everything changed,” said Lucy. “From then I wouldn’t even call it a life, I was just existing. 

“I live on my own, but I was reliant on my mum and twin sister and wouldn’t go out alone because I was scared people might try to communicate with me if I made eye contact. 

“It became so bad I’d sleep as late as I could and then count down the hours until bedtime. I was anxious about applying for a Hearing Dog when my sister suggested it, but I knew things had to change.” 

Lucy was paired with Wilbur by the charity two years ago and she says he has totally transformed her life. In addition to practical things like alerting her to her alarm clock, phone, doorbell and smoke alarm, he has given her the confidence to get back out into the world. 

“The first time we went to the park in my mobility scooter I looked round and thought how beautiful nature was and how much I’d missed it,” said Lucy. “My confidence has grown as people see his little uniform and want to talk about him as he is such a friendly, happy dog. 

“He always seems to be smiling when we’re at the supermarket or the hospital and he brings a lot of joy not just to me but everyone we meet.” 

Lucy entered Wilbur for the popular Vets Now Pet of the Year Awards and was thrilled at his success. He won a trophy, a £100 Lords & Labradors voucher and a bundle of goodies. 

“I’m so proud of him and it’s so nice for him to get the award as it means other people see what he’s like, too,” said Lucy.  

“He has become my whole world as he’s changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. He loves me unconditionally just the way I am and has helped me to accept myself. 

“I’m no longer looking back. Now I look to the future as I have my best friend by my side.”