A FAMILY whose lives were ‘blown apart’ by illness are re-building their future with the help of their beloved dog.
Stratford mum-of-two Vicky Brook was working as board director of a call centre when she fell pregnant with second daughter Florence.
She was born with Gastro-Oeseophageal Reflux – a condition causing her to stop breathing.
Florence, who is now 16, has since been diagnosed with a number of complex physical and mental illnesses requiring her mum to stop work and look after her.
And when older daughter Emily, 21, fell ill with Addison’s Disease – a condition causing fatigue and palpitations – Vicky thought life couldn’t get any worse.
Then her father, who had supported her through a divorce from Emily and Florence’s dad, discovered he had a brain tumour and died just six weeks later.
The 39-year-old said: “My dad had helped so much with Flo’s home education and he would spend hours on the phone to her when she was blind or paralysed due to her illness.
“At the time I literally wanted the earth to swallow us up. I felt so terrified and emotionally exhausted. It was just challenge after challenge and there were times when I wasn’t sure if I could cope with another day.
“Nothing could have prepared me for that sequence of events and nothing could heal the desperation.”
In a bid to bring some happiness into the family’s lives, Vicky bought a puppy called Herbie, a French Hairy Bassett Hound.
She started sketching stories about him and his make-believe friends for her youngest daughter, just like her dad used to about their previous dog.
Vicky realised the potential to help others with her ‘Herbie’ stories, and started raising money to turn them into an online series and book collection.
She has now created ten episodes of the ‘Hilarious Adventures of Herbie Hound’ animation and an accompanying set of books, with well-behaved Herbie playing the lead role.
The online series explores the adventures of the dog and his friends, with digital effects making it look like the animals are speaking.
Vicky plans to donate some of the money raised through the show to the Dogs Trust and Birmingham City Hospital, where Florence has been cared for since she was a baby.
She said: “Herbie has such a big personality and was my inspiration to create stories and animations.
“Being special is a theme in all of the stories. They are designed to make children see themselves and others in a positive light, thinking about the positive over the negative.
“I have had to calve out a path that allows me first and foremost to be there for Flo and Emily, but to also use the business acumen and creativity I knew I had.”
Visit herbiehound.co.uk to download the show or find out more.