A teenager with a rare heart condition trained her pet dog to become her lifeline – by helping her to get changed and even putting the washing away.
Chloe Fuller, 19, transformed her life thanks to assistance dog Ted after she was diagnosed with a rare condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
The condition causes an increase in her heart rate after sitting up or standing, and has developed from a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos syndrome which has seriously weakened Chloe’s joints.
Chloe had to leave school aged 13 to be home schooled because of her deteriorating health.
By 16, Chloe was using a wheelchair because she couldn’t stand or walk without going faint and experienced extreme joint pain.
But three-year-old super dog Ted has come to the rescue by learning over 100 commands to help Chloe around the house, including helping her get changed with his teeth and fetching her phone.
She said: “I didn’t want to be matched with a pre-trained dog.
“I was after a challenge and really wanted to train a dog myself.
“All of my friends were getting ready to do their GCSE’s and I didn’t really have anything to call my own like that.
“I’ve always been fiercely independent since I was young, so I was determined to do it myself.”
Chloe, from Haslingden, Lancs., came across a blog about an assistance dog organisation called Dog Assistance in Disability (AID).
Dog AID provides pet dog training to people with physical disabilities up to qualified ‘Assistance Dog’ standard.
Chloe said: “I decided I wanted to get a springer spaniel because I used to have one when I was growing up and I’ve always loved them.
“I got in touch with a charity, but because of a lack of funding they couldn’t get me a dog straight away.
“But they did put me in touch with a trainer and with her help I started looking for my own dog.”
Chloe and Ted found each other when she was 14–years-old and visited his owner to put a deposit on an unborn litter of puppies.
But at first the five-month-old puppy was absolutely terrified of Chloe’s wheelchair.
Chloe said: “I just thought to myself there’s no way this is going to work.
“These type of dogs just cannot be afraid of wheelchairs – it would be like a supermarket worker being afraid of trolleys.”
But when, on a second visit to Ted’s owner, Chloe collapsed in the kitchen and Ted reacted by rushing to her and lying across her chest until she felt better.
Chloe said “I was hooked from that point. It was just so unexpected because he had so afraid of me before then.
“His owner’s couldn’t believe it either. They said it was so unlike him to do that.”
Chloe took Ted home and threw herself into his training.
She said: “The first task he learned was to pick up a sock and now when I am putting on my socks he knows to go and get my shoes as that will be the next command.
“The socks were probably the easiest task to learn. He was obsessed with picking up my socks anyway, so it was any easy transition.
“Strangely, the simpler tasks were the hardest – things like standing up from the sitting position. I think he was just so used to doing complicated things by that point.
“But the most important thing obviously is absolute obedience. He can’t react at all to food or loud noises because if he lunges for something it could really hurt me.
“We qualified 13 months later, making us one of the youngest and quickest partnerships with Dog AID.
“He helps to get me dressed and undressed and can also load and unload washing.
“Ted now knows nearly 100 commands. We train for fun too and his favourite tricks to show people are praying and doggy squats.”
Such was Ted’s impact, Chloe’s mum Nicola, her sole carer, was able to return to work two days a week.
Chloe said: “If it wasn’t for Ted, my mum would still have to get me dressed and undressed every day.
“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.
“Ted picks up everything I drop with such enthusiasm, more so than you would get from a human carer after the tenth time of asking in an hour.
“He is an unbelievably happy dog, it’s hard not to smile when you have a crazy spaniel bouncing across the room wondering how he can help you next.
“His exuberance brings great joy and laughter to my life, I don’t know what I would do without him.”
Ted has even become something of a social media star, with his own Facebook and Instagram profiles full of videos showing off his amazing abilities
For information about Dog Assistance in Disability go to www.dogaid.org.uk