Young girl with Battens Disease becomes dog handler for a day

24 Oct 2016 12:30 PM

Nicole Rich [View Full Size]

A young girl who suffers from a debilitating illness was able to take her mind off doctors and hospital beds - as she became a police dog handler for a day.

Four-year-old Nicole Rich has a rare incurable illness called Batten Disease which affects only one to three children in the UK each year.

The degenerative disease will eventually leave Nicole blind and unable to walk with doctors telling mum Gail and Dad Matthew that Nicole may not live into her teens.

However the youngster still lives life with a smile on her face and that was bigger than ever this week when she got to pay a special trip to Northumbria Police's headquarters in Northumberland.

Nicole and her brother Louis were able to meet dog handler PC Steve Henry who introduced them to his police dogs Rudi, Jackson and Gerty.

They were able to watch a demonstration, take a whirl in the police van and chat to the dogs handlers before Nicole was presented with an award by Chief Constable Steve Ashman.

Chief Constable Ashman said: "It was a real honour to be able to meet Nicole and her family and I hope they enjoyed their time at police headquarters.

"I think Nicole probably enjoyed meeting Rudi, Jackson and Gerty more than me but it was a real honour to be able to welcome all of her family to our base in Ponteland.

"Batten Disease is an awful illness and hopefully being able to meet our wonderful Dog Section gave Nicole something to smile about.

Nicole's dad Matthew said: "It was a real privilege spending an afternoon at Police HQ in Ponteland with Steve and his beautiful dogs. It was brilliant to watch the amazingly clever Rudi, Jackson & Gerty do their thing.

"We also had the pleasure of meeting the Chief Constable on our visit which was a wonderful opportunity and it gave Louis the chance to ask him 'if people disobey you, do you throw them in a dungeon?!'

"It was a fantastic experience and we want to say thank you so much to Northumbria Police and to Steve in particular for looking after us all so well.

"A thank you also to our friend Alicia for helping to organise our visit, it was a very special day for Nicole and the family."

Nicole and her family live in the Throckley area of Newcastle and have already raised more than £13,000 to ensure Nicole can live life to the full whilst she still can.

To help Nicole's fundraising efforts go to