It’s said that a man’s best friend is his dog, but one teenager and her pet Springer Spaniel have developed a remarkable relationship.
Chloe Fuller, 19, has trained her faithful assistance dog Ted to become her canine carer - getting her undressed and even loading the washing machine.
For Chloe, of Haslingden, Lancashire, the process of training up her own dog has been life-changing, having been forced to leave school for home education aged 13 after developing Postural orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a rare heart condition, and Ehlers Danlos which affects her joints.
Three-year-old Ted now responds to more than 100 commands corresponding to vital tasks Chloe would struggle to do alone, including fetching her shoes and phone, and even removing her socks with his teeth.The animal lover has been a wheelchair user for three years.
She decided she needed a new challenge and became involved with Dog Assistance In Disability (Dog AID), a not-for-profit organisation that helps people with physical disabilities train their own pets to become qualified assistance dogs.
Chloe said: “I had no idea what to do with myself so the idea I could train my own dog and get a skill at something really appealed to me, and we have succeeded beyond my own and others’ expectations.
"The fact that there is this little creature that is so over joyed having to do anything he can for you takes the sting out of having to ask.
“It makes it less depressing, he takes your socks off ever so gingerly with his teeth - you can’t not smile when you’ve got a dog doing that. I almost say it in a bit of a blasé way, I really wish I could remember it’s not as normal for everybody else for a dog to get you undressed.”
The former Haslingden High pupil added: “The only thing mum has to do now is make meals and drinks, I haven’t quite figured out how to get Ted to make a cup of tea yet!”
At her first meeting with Ted as a five-month-old puppy he backed off in fear at the sight of her wheelchair, but on their second encounter they formed a unique bond.
Chloe said: “I pretty much collapsed on the owner’s dining room and he just clambered onto my lap. The moment he climbed on to me I knew that was it, the bond was very instantaneous, and it’s become another level.
"He never leaves my side. He knows I need something before I have even managed to get the words out.”
They qualified after just 13 months training, making them one of the youngest and quickest partnerships with Dog AID.
Chloe said: “The training is very intensive but it’s definitely a game changer, and it’s quite an interesting and unconventional way forward in helping disabled people.
"But the dogs have to have a very high level of basic obedience and a lot of dogs don’t make the grade.
“People are very aware of guide dogs and some people know about hearing dogs but not that many people are aware of just how dogs can help.
"The most exciting thing has been for people to see videos of him helping me, when they can actually see it their mind is blown.”
Postural orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or PoTS, is an abnormal increase in heart rate that occurs after sitting up or standing and typically causes dizziness and fainting.
Combined with her Ehlers Danlos (ED), which means Chloe’s joints dislocate easily, she finds it hard to perform everyday tasks such as tying up her shoes.
Ted responds to a mixture of physical gestures and verbal commands, and can also open and close cupboards, and operate automated disabled access doors.
Chloe, who lives with her mum Nic and two younger brothers, says she has been ‘bitten by the training bug’ and is now taking Ted’s skills into the world of dog agility competition.
Chloe said: “It is primarily a sport for those who run - but we give the people on two legs a run for their money.
“Some of his favourite tricks to show people are praying and doggy squats. Our latest endeavour is to get him to do a handstand against the wall!”