Raised in a small Hertfordshire village, Tess was a solitary child who found it difficult to relate to people. When she was sixteen her father died of cancer and she left home, going on to spend a number of years living in punk squats in London, where she became addicted to heroin. In 1986, she found herself pregnant, and though her son’s birth was a catalyst for her getting clean, she was too emotionally unwell to look after him, and he ended up being brought up by her mother.
Tess finally found what she thought was love in her twenties. She was married briefly in 1990, and in 1992 gave birth to her daughter, Scarlett. Shortly after this, however, her husband left her, and, once again, her fragile mental equilibrium was lost. Over the next few years, while still trying to do her best by her daughter, she was once again mired in a hedonistic, drug-fuelled and self-destructive lifestyle.
A diagnosis of Hepatitis C was a wake-up call. As was a marked deterioration in Tess’s relationship with her daughter, by then a teenager, who went to live with her father’s family. Feeling wretched, alone, and a failure as a mother, Tess knew something fundamental had to change. In 2009 she left London and travelled alone to Peru, hoping to find the key to healing her tortured soul. For three years, on and off, she moved extensively within the country, but though she learned a lot from the indigenous Andean Qero people, the main truth she returned with was that there was no magic bullet; that the answer lay not in where she was, but who she was. And she couldn’t run from herself.
In 2011, Tess became only the second person in the world to be offered the treatment for Hepatitis C using Interferon and a protease inhibitor. A gruelling seventy two weeks later she was tested clear.
At the age of 54, not long after rescuing Kratu, Tess was formally diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). This was life-changing – helping her finally make sense of her drug use, her impulsiveness, and her troubles in forming meaningful relationships, including those with her children. It was her relationship with Kratu that impelled her on her road to self-discovery, and for the first time in her life she started to feel worthwhile.
For the past nine years, Tess has devoted her life to making changes; in raising awareness of animal welfare issues and autism-related causes. She also supports the cross parliamentary group APDAWG. Now a dedicated dog welfare advocate and rescue dog ambassador, she also continues to train her five dogs, and, along with Kratu (now her official Assistance Dog), does therapy work at the local primary school.