Michelle Smart had battled anorexia since she was 17 years old and now, back in the hospital again, doctors tell the 23 year old that she only has three months left to live. The eating disorder usually affects young women who intentionally starve themselves and Michelle's weight had deteriorated to only 56 pounds. "I had been in the hospital and they told me I had only three months and I wasn't bothered," she explains. Even watching her parents and family members cry around her didn't convince the Staffordshire, England nurse to get better. Then her parents decided to carve out a plan to help their daughter.
Distraught parents Pauline and Stuart Smart gave their daughter a little Husky, Rio, in the hopes that she would work to battle her way back to health. "I had always wanted a Siberian husky as a child and I was really pleased and excited, but they said I had to try and gain the weight - that was part of the deal."
As time passed, Michelle relapsed and stopped eating again. Then she noticed that Rio had stopped eating also. "She lost a lot of weight and it made me realize what I was doing. The worry I was having over her was what my parents were going through (over me)." Rio had given her owner a reason to live.
For her love and devotion to Michelle, Rio was crowned Britain's top dog and was awarded the prestigious Bono Award. Rio beat out over 300 other dogs to win the top prize of 1000 pounds (approx. $1538.00 in US dollars). As she was handed the award by television presenter Gaby Roslin, Ms. Roslin said, "Our winner has virtually worked miracles. This animal offered her owner a reason to live and a life worth living."
"She saved me," explains Michelle. "She gave me the will to get out of bed and eat. She gave me the will to go out - which I hadn't done before - and take her for walks. She saved my life."