K9 Magazine

Meet the Shih Tzu Who Changed Her Young Owner’s Life

Hannah Gates was 15 when she was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Four years on, she tells us that without her Shih Tzu, Buttons and TV presenter Paul O’Grady, she would be in a very dark place.

She tells us, ‘Buttons is my first dog. I’ve been a dog lover for as long as I can remember and always wanted a dog of my own.

“My persistence finally paid off in 2013 and we got Buttons. My dad actually chose the Shih Tzu breed, after seeing an adorable Shih Tzu puppy on Paul O’Grady’s ‘For the Love of Dogs’. If I ever met Paul, I’d love to thank him for encouraging us to get a dog, as without him, I’d be in a very dark place without my Buttons!”

Here’s her story.

In the Summer of 2014, I was diagnosed with a near-fatal case of Ulcerative Colitis, spending two weeks in a High Dependency Unit as a result. During the fortnight I was in the hospital, I had to endure various procedures and scans, multiple blood transfusions, and experienced episodes of seizures and complete unconsciousness.

When I was eventually discharged from hospital and returned home, I was welcomed by a very enthusiastic Shih Tzu, my Buttons.

I had only owned her for a year beforehand, but already we were so in tune with each other.


Hannah and Buttons / 2014

Throughout my recovery, Buttons did not leave my side. For the entire duration, before I was fit enough to return to education, she would dote on me, making sure I was comfortable and comforting me at any time I needed her.

During those few months, we created and developed a bond that is now so poignant in our everyday life.

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A year after the event I was quite overweight due to an intense course of steroids, so I decided to get into sport upon my doctor's recommendation.

Not really a sporty person, I struggled at first to decide which activity I could find the motivation to get in to. Weeks into researching I found dog agility as an option and I haven't looked back!


Hannah and Buttons / 2015

Buttons and I have been thoroughly enjoying agility for three years now.

We've just started competing and are both loving every second. Not only has agility given me so many amazing opportunities, but it's helped me gain physical and mental fitness too.

Buttons competing / Photo Credit: Chris Tarling at Yellow Hound Photography

Buttons was commended for her extreme loyalty and compassion at Crufts this year, whilst participating in the Eukanuba Friends For Life award.

Although we didn’t win overall, the amount of love and support we received was heartwarming and exceeded all of my expectations. I’m so proud of my little Buttons for sharing such a once-in-a-lifetime experience with me.

Unfortunately, however, I have recently been hospitalised due to my condition once again and am currently experiencing a flare up, which is threatening to stop me from doing what I love.


Hannah and Buttons, photographed alongside Pepper, Button's little sister / 2018

I would love to find a cure for this horrible condition and have participated in Walk It! for Crohn's and Colitis, but we have a long way to go in regards to research to find a lasting remedy.

With Buttons by my side, though, I find the motivation and determination to pick myself up and deter my condition. She has helped me in so many ways; Buttons is truly my saviour and best friend, I don't know what I'd do without her.

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