In loving memory

This is a page to celebrate some of our dogs that have passed to rainbow bridge or retired from their wonderful careers as Medical detection Dogs.



27-05-11 to 08-03-22

This is my tribute to Milly, Scotland’s First Medical Alert Assistance Dog and my Saviour. 

MILLY was a little Yorkie rescued by Wood Green Animal Centre. She was handed into the centre in a cardboard box with her siblings, her mum and dad. She was covered in matted fur, faeces and urine. She was happy to interact with people, had a good sense of smell and so was a great candidate for the Medical Detection Dogs Charity. 

I met her when she was 18 months old and for me it was love at first sight, she bounded over to me, put her little wet nose on my leg and we bonded immediately. She never left my side since. 

I am an unstable diabetic and experience high and low blood sugar levels, changing very quickly and without warnings. This meant that in the past it was too late for me to either get myself to safety when high and take insulin or to counteract low high sugar with food or drinks so I was collapsing a lot and sometimes even having seizures.

I installed a doorbell in my son’s room with the remote on my bedstead so that if I could only manage to press the button either before or after an episode my son could come through and help.  

Since having Milly that became redundant and I can’t explain the feeling of independence I had the day I pulled that damned doorbell of my bed! 

Little Milly alerted to both high and low blood sugar levels and at a faster and earlier time than my continuous blood monitor which meant I had plenty of time to either administer insulin, take a high glucose food or get myself to safety.

During the day Milly alerted me by pawing  or jumping up at my leg whilst during the night she would lick my face. If my blood sugar was low then was a great excuse for a midnight snack! 

She loved her work, getting extra praise and treats whenever she alerted, accompanying me everywhere knowing she was loved and safe. I could face any circumstance knowing that she was beside me keeping me safe and sound. 

I then started to attend events, go to the gym, visit family and friends. These things I had given up becoming depressed, making excuses not to attend, worried about embarrassing myself or worrying those around me with their continuous “Had you done a test yet and are you sure you’re okay?”  

Now if I start talking rubbish they know it is just me waffling on and I’m not going into an episode. 

Milly changed my life, my way of thinking about dogs and my belief in all that they can do. I would never have had this normal life without her. 

She is indeed a life saver! 

You could in fact say this little rescue dog and the Medical Detection Dogs  rescued me! 

Thank you for giving me my life back and being by my side forever! 



By Lydia Swanson

It is with a heavy heart that I write about the passing of retired Bio- detection dog, Lucy on 12.2.21

Lucy first came into my life when she returned from a project she was working on in Italy. Rob Harris brought her back once she had completed the project and asked if I knew of any fosterers available. I said if he was really stuck, I would take her for the weekend. Truth be told, I don’t think I ever bothered to look for a home for her. That weekend turned into 8 years. 

Lucy was bred by Irish Guide Dogs, a mating which I believe was never repeated, and for good reasons. Half Irish Water Spaniel and half Labrador is a heady combination for sure!  

From 2013 Lucy was a key part of the initial team of cancer detection dogs, working closely with Daisy. First she worked on the Bladder cancer paper, she also helped prove the idea of canine cancer and prove the concept with prostate as well. She has demonstrated at prestigious events in Trento Italy to a hospital of staff and dignitaries, in Milan in a principality building to the media and dignitaries, at the European parliament pet awards night. At St James palace to Prince Charles and Camilla, at House of Lords and House of Commons as well as featured in numerous TV and journalist outlets around the world.

I had the pleasure of working with Lucy on a few projects and being part of the Royal Demonstration MDD took part in to HRH at St James Palace. Lucy’s manners resembled that of a stroppy toddler: if she didn’t get what she wanted she would shout at you or simply drag you over to where she wanted to be. So understandably I was nervous about taking her to such an important and prestigious event. I had this fear of her dragging her bottom across the royal carpet whilst making direct eye contact with HRH (anyone who knows Lucy, knows this wasn’t just a fear but a likelihood). Luckily, she behaved impeccably during the demonstration. Later on, she stole a piece of cake from a 5-year-old diabetic who was having a hypo.

That wasn’t the first or last time she would steal something. She was both stealth and bullish. Nothing could be left unattended, as it would be consumed. I can’t recall all the items she has stolen over the years, but to name a few…a catering pack of pastries, a cookie from Kimberly Cox (bad move), 6 chicken drumsticks, the contents of a BBQ, countless lunch boxes and bin contents, a bar of dark chocolate, many family picnics, fisherman’s bait, the contents of a baby’s lunch which was stored underneath the pram (confession, I just walked away and pretending she wasn’t mine), several Costa lunches and 6 luxury mince pies and half a box of posh chocolates this Christmas. I remember the first time she stole while under my care, which was the catering box of pastries with raisins in. I rushed her to the vets and left there in tears, fearing she would be seriously ill. I avoided Rob all morning until I finally blubbed and told him I had broken Lucy. He laughed, saying she was made of steel. The vets called later that day for me to collect her, apparently she was very upset about having to part with all her pastries and they didn’t want to hear her whinging about it anymore! Even in old age, she managed to steal from counter tops and the unsuspecting, who thought she was a sweet old dog….

At the time I was the only full time worker as an instructor, so when Lucy wasn’t working on a project, she would accompany me to client visits, training classes and assessments. It goes without saying, that she was never there to demonstrate how a dog should behave, but was apt at helping clients to understand what is undesirable behaviour. We travelled thousands of miles together and stayed in many hotels. We kept one another company.

Lucy continued to work on the bio detection projects for many years until finally retiring herself at about 10 years old. I don’t recall this being Rob’s or Claire Guest’s choice as such, but one that Lucy made quite clear. Once retired, not much changed for her in terms of her routine. She continued to come into the office, make her presence known and go home again. She enjoyed many holidays, staying with friends and family and endless walks which usually ended in her swimming away from me or rolling in something dead. On her 10th birthday she walked the 10 miles around Derwent Dam in the Peak District. She loved to swim, given any opportunity she would be in the water. She has always been blamed for teaching the dogs I trained as Assistance Dogs for encouraging them to love water too. One of her favourite past times was to hunt moorhens. She would spend ages swimming around after them and I know anyone who has walked Lucy will have spent large amounts of time, waiting for her to get out. I have been close to retrieving her from many lakes, because she only comes out when she is ready, or near to hypothermia.

She developed many nick names over the years, not all of which I can tell you about as they are not family friendly. The ones that stuck the most were : ‘Bad Lady’ ‘Bibidi bob is hob nob’ and ‘what the bloody hell do you think you are doing?’ 

I have lost count of the Medical Detection Dogs that Lucy and I have had in our lives, all of which she accepted/tolerated. However, her best friend will always be Magic, partnered with Claire Pesterfield.  If I ever said to Lucy “do you want to see Magic?” she would  

One thing Lucy very much enjoyed doing, was sniffing men’s crotches. Rob tells me this is because she learnt to detect cancer from urine samples. On my first date with my late partner, Lucy slipped her lead, ran over to him and introduced herself to his crotch, with me shouting “she just likes urine”. Sometimes I question Rob’s statements…

Whenever I worked away or was on holiday, Lucy was cared for by one of our lovely volunteers. I would particularly like to thank Tina Lee and Jean Knowles, who looked after her on many occasions, she was very happy to spend time with you. I would also like thank Luke and Hampdens Veterinary surgery for his years of thoughtful care towards Lucy and apologies for the most difficult tooth extraction of your career. Lastly, thank you to MDD for bringing us together. 

In recent years, Lucy was there by my side through very difficult times. Her attitude, sheer determination and tenacious personality will remain with me, and anyone else who knew her, forever.

Lucy had a habit of doing what she wanted to, when she wanted to. Some would call this stubborn, personally I think she was a feminist with an unknown hearing impairment and hatred of moorhens.

I have thought a lot about what I learnt from the years of having such a ridiculous dog in my life, and it comes back to the ethos of the charity. It is not what we teach dogs, but what we can learn from them. 

RIP Bad Lady

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