WHEN arthritis forced florist Rosemary Shuker to give up her business she felt as if she was spiralling into a black hole of depression.
The stick she had to use to help her walk seemed to make her invisible to people who did not know how to cope with her new disability.
But a chance meeting with a volunteer from the charity Canine Partners in a department store changed her life.
The charity trains dogs to help people carry out everyday tasks such as using a cashpoint or taking the washing out of the machine.
Within weeks Mrs Shuker, of Horndean Road, Emsworth, had her own wonder dog – Dasher – who enabled her to enjoy life again.
The 61-year-old said: ‘I’ve been a florist all my working life and in April 2006, I woke up with a swollen leg and couldn’t get down the stairs – this was the start of a different chapter of my life. I had to give up my florists shop, in North Street, Emsworth, and lost all my confidence.
‘After an initial assessment by Canine Partners I was dumbfounded to receive a call asking me if one of the trainers could pay a home visit.
‘After further assessment and training I thought I had won the lottery when I became the very proud custodian of my darling Dasher.
‘After my divorce, I vowed never to have another man in my life so my friends were shocked when I told them about this dark, handsome stranger who’d come to live with me.
‘He has made such a difference to my life both physically and emotionally.
‘I struggle with my hands, which have become very unreliable and I am often unable to pick things up, so Dasher does it for me.
‘He helps me take off my shoes and socks when I come in the house and fetches my slippers.
‘When we go into town, I have become a person again and people chat to me like they used to without any sense of discomfort.
‘In the supermarket he helps me to get the lower items from the shelves that I can’t reach.
‘However, I have to keep him away from the biscuit aisle where he sits staring at the packets of Rich Tea!’
Dasher and Mrs Shuker enjoy dog friendly holidays together and they both love visiting National Trust properties.
To donate to Canine Partners call 01730 716 012 caninepartners.org.uk.