Southwell woman with debilitating genetic disorder speaks of how she trained her dog to help with assistance of Dog AID
Published: 07:00, 14 November 2020
A woman with a debilitating genetic disorder has spoken about how she has trained her dog to help her, supported by a specialist charity.
Emma Frith, of Southwell, has hypermobile type Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, making dislocation, sprains and fractures a regular occurrence.
Emma, 43, lives with a lot of pain and exhaustion on a daily basis and has difficulty standing, walking and carrying out everyday tasks.
After first hearing about Dog AID ten years ago, she has since trained her border collie, Lottie, to become a fully-fledged assistance dog.
Emma said: “I was diagnosed with hEDS aged 20. I have always liked to be active and sociable, but injuries can happen at any time with the pain and fatigue often hitting me like a truck,” she said.
“It also results in fragile skin, poor healing, and digestive, circulatory and neurological symptoms.”
Emma is married with a son and runs her own business as a hand embroiderer, printmaker and artist.
She designs and makes embroidered art, vestments and commissioned items, and teaches embroidery.
She used to work as a biomedical scientist and clinical trial manager but turned to embroidery and art as a distraction from constant pain.
“Eventually, I took this up full time. Becoming self-employed meant I could manage my hours around my disability and finally get a dog.”
Lottie came into her life in 2015, five years after meeting a man on holiday who had an assistance dog.
“He told me about Dog AID and how they helped people with disabilities to train their own dog and I recall being very impressed. At that point I was employed full time and getting a dog was still a dream, but a little spark of hope was lit even then.
“When I got Lottie there was no availability with trainers in my area. I began doing some basic training with Lottie and was delighted to find a trainer called Isabel in June 2016.
“ We had so much support from my trainer and the Dog AID team.”
Lottie is now fully qualified and helps Emma a lot around the house, as well as when they are out and about.
“She goes into the kitchen to get my medicine bag from the cupboard or gets help if I fall. She can fetch objects, as well as helping with dressing and undressing.
“She assists me with loading and unloading the washing machine, and she can pick up anything I drop.
“When we are out with the wheelchair Lottie can press door opening pads for me and if I can’t get to a shop counter to pay, I can send her with money or a card.
“Another of her specialities is picking up dropped coins, which she is very quick at.
“One day we were in a shop and the man in front of us dropped 50p and it rolled under the counter out of reach. Before I could say anything, she was on the floor reaching to get it then nudging his hand to return it.
“Lottie’s work means I am not constantly calling my son or husband to do things.
“Having her increases my confidence to go out on my own, make friends and get involved in things.
“I am so grateful to Dog AID for their support and belief in us throughout the entire process. Isabel, our trainer, has a really supreme understanding of the relationship.
“Lottie is my assistance dog and I am her support human. Her trust in me helps her to work with enjoyment. In turn, she enriches my life immeasurably and helps me to be myself, not my disability. We are a team.”