Girl with incurable illness gets to be police dog handler for the day

Nicole, her brother Louis, mum Gail and dad Matthew with Chief Constable Steve Ashman and dog handler Pc Steve Henry.

Nicole, her brother Louis, mum Gail and dad Matthew with Chief Constable Steve Ashman and dog handler Pc Steve Henry.

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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.

Nicole and her brother check out the dogs section at police HQ.

Nicole and her brother check out the dogs section at police HQ.

The degenerative disease will eventually leave Nicole blind and unable to walk, and doctors have told mum Gail and dad Matthew that she 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 at Ponteland.

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 trip in a police van and chat to the dogs' handlers before Nicole was presented with an award by Chief Constable Steve Ashman.

Nicole and her mum and dad at Northumbria Police headquarters in Ponteland.

Nicole and her mum and dad at Northumbria Police headquarters in Ponteland.

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.

Nicole's brother Louis tries on a hat for size during the police HQ visit.

Nicole's brother Louis tries on a hat for size during the police HQ visit.

"It was brilliant to watch the amazingly clever Rudi, Jackson and 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 the Go Fund Me page HERE.