By Lucy Notarantonio
A Springer Spaniel has given his owner a ‘reason to live’ after training him to becoming a master at agility courses.
Chloe Fuller, 21, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) – a rare condition that affects the connective tissue that caused her to need a wheelchair.
Her disability meant she was unable to continue in education from the age of 13, with Chloe claiming that the diagnosis meant she ‘lost her identity’ and purpose in life.
But after she decided to train her pet dog Ted, five, to become an assistance dog through Dog Aid, the pair have since started completing agility courses.
Since starting their training last September Chloe couldn’t be happier with their newfound passion and says the pair train every week to improve on their skills.
Chloe, from Rossendale, Lancs, said: “Ted was six months old when I bought him, and he immediately gave me something positive to focus on.
“I had always been fascinated with assistance dogs and I knew it would be a massive helping hand for my mum Nicola Swarbrick, 44, and I, if I had one.
“I felt lost without school as I had no milestones to reach so training Ted felt right, it gave me a purpose and reason to live again.
“Before Ted, my self-worth and confidence was so low that I didn’t think I was capable of accomplishing anything ever again.
“But he helped me realise that I can, and he gave me something to be proud of.
“Once I qualified with Dog Aid in November 2015, we both felt lost, so I signed up to become an agility trainer.
“Despite being in and out of hospital over the years with my condition, I got accepted onto the agility course in September 2018 at ‘Standish Dog Trainer’ school in Wigan.
“There was no stopping us and still isn’t, we make a great team and it allows me to forget I am disabled as it is predominately a ‘healthy’ person’s sport.
“I love learning new tricks with Ted and giving my fellow trainers a run for their money.”
Chloe also suffers with an abnormally high heart rate and dysmotility – a condition in which muscles of the digestive system become impaired.
She says Ted has given her ‘independence’ as he helps her with day to day duties such as getting changed, loading the washing machine, collecting her purse and pressing disabled buttons when they are out – meaning she gets less tired and is able to socialise more.
She adds: “I was sporty growing up and was an avid horse rider and now I have diverted my energy and love from horses to dogs.
“As I reached my teens, I had no choice to leave school as I was too ill to attend most days and was misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue until I was 17.
“It was hard learning how to cope with a disability, but losing my identity was even harder, I lost my education, social life and love for sports.
“Ted is the most incredible dog and he has given me a reason to live again and something positive to talk about.
“Agility is a great social outlet and I train Ted with the loveliest bunch of ladies who help keep my spirits high.”
To keep with Chloe and Ted’s story, follow them on Instagram: @tedtheassistancedog