Labrador/golden retriever cross Amber is living proof that dogs truly are man’s best friend.
Over the past year she has been helping her owner Helen Bree complete daily tasks, including getting dressed and food shopping, that had been made increasingly difficult due to her life-long cerebral palsy and progressive multiple sclerosis.
Affectionately called her ‘big ginger nut’, Amber has been trained to pass Helen her clothes, load the washing machine, hand her the phone when it rings and even tuck her into bed.
Although Helen had been born with cerebral palsy which made it difficult for her to walk she attended a mainstream school and carved out a successful career with the Health & Safety Executive, even being awarded an MBE.
It was only in 2006 when her health worsened, and MS confined her to a wheelchair that she began to lose her independence.
“I would fall and be unable to get up, sometimes injuring myself, and doing the simplest tasks like putting on socks, closing doors and shopping, took much longer. My increasing pain and fatigue made me feel depressed to the point of crying at the end of the day,” said Helen.
In 2011, Helen watched a TV programme showing the work of Canine Partners, a charity that assists people with disabilities to enjoy independence and a better quality of life through specially trained dogs. Helen applied and went to the centre a few months later where she met Amber. Just before Christmas last year they were matched, and embarked on a two-week training course. The rest is history!
“She’s been the best thing to happen to me in years and what I’d do without her, I really don’t know,” said Helen.