Marley and Me: Seriously ill girl sees dream come true alongside her pet chihuahua

Seriously-ill Jade-Louise Cullen, who has cystic fibrosis and is in need of a lung transplant, managed to show her long coat chiwawa Marley at Crufts last week and managed to walk around the judging ring pulling an oxygen cylinder. Photo by Simon Finlay. Seriously-ill Jade-Louise Cullen, who has cystic fibrosis and is in need of a lung transplant, managed to show her long coat chiwawa Marley at Crufts last week and managed to walk around the judging ring pulling an oxygen cylinder. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Thursday, March 13, 2014
9:53 AM

A seriously ill teenager, who is waiting for a lung transplant, has fulfilled her dream of showing her pet chihuahua at Crufts - walking around the judging ring with an oxygen cylinder.

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Jade Cullen, 19, of Lowestoft, has had cystic fibrosis since birth, but her health has deteriorated over the last three years, with doctors fearing she did not have long to live.

The former Benjamin Britten High School pupil was told the trip to Crufts on Saturday would be too much for her, having been in and out of hospital, but she was determined to prove everyone wrong.

“I can’t just get up and go like other teenagers,” said Jade.

“But the cystic fibrosis doesn’t stop me from doing anything much. I don’t let it.”

Her mother, Ann-Marie, said it was an emotional moment when Jade took to the judging ring with her 14-month-old long-haired chihuahua Marley.

“I am just so proud - I ended up in tears seeing her achieve what she did in that ring,” she said.

“There were quite a few eyes that weren’t dry. She has gone through a lot and despite all the odds, she has managed to do what she wants to achieve in life.”

Due to being in hospital, Jade was unable to train with Marley in the run up to Crufts, so she said they had to “wing it” on the day.

Marley came sixth in his category and Jade was pleased with their efforts, saying she would like to show him again.

“The night before, I was wondering if I should go around the ring in my chair but I decided to walk in the end,” she said.

“I was so focussed on trying not to pass out, that I didn’t really take it all in - but I’d like to do it again.”

As well as suffering from cystic fibrosis, Jade also has diabetes, liver disease and epilepsy and uses a mobility scooter to get around.

Marley rides around in the basket of her scooter, and Jade says he is “the soppiest dog ever” who likes dressing up and “thinks he is king”.

The family, who live in Higher Drive, have 11 dogs, and Ann-Marie has been showing her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels at Crufts for many years.

Jade, who has accompanied her mother to the event in the past, has always said she would like to enter a dog of her own.

“Three years ago I nearly passed away and mum said if you pull through, I’ll get you a present,” she said.

“She asked me what I wanted and I said my own Chihuahua, so I got Trixie and then a year ago when I was ill again she asked what I would like and I got Marley.”

And the teenager is now waiting for her third dog, this time a short-haired chihuahua - after being promised a treat when she had some teeth pulled out.

“In the last three years there have been plenty of times when they didn’t think she would pull through,” said Mrs Cullen

“Everybody says she can’t do it but she says she can. She likes to prove everybody wrong. She has got a lot of guts and determination and that makes me proud.”

Dr Mark Pasteur, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “Jade’s determination to attend Crufts shows that she won’t let her severe health problems get in the way of achieving her life goals. She is an inspiration to us all in the Cystic Fibrosis Service.”

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