FOR years Rachel Rawlings suffered to cope with a series of disabilities that left her housebound and in constant pain.
But thanks to charity Canine Partners, the 27-year-old’s life has been turned around after she got assistance dog Darcey.
In the last year, Rachel has been able to start leaving the house again, attend university for her PhD and improve her mental health all because of the three-year-old golden retriever.
To show what Darcey means to her, Rachel, from Fratton in Portsmouth, has written a song which she has uploaded to YouTube and shared with Canine Partners.
She said: ‘Three years ago I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (PoTS).
‘All the conditions mean my joints dislocate easily, I am in a lot of pain, I get fatigued easily and the PoTs means my heart rate can increase rapidly and I am risk of passing out if I get up too quickly or bend down.
‘Before I got all the equipment and support I have now, I was pretty much housebound and would only go out once a fortnight.
‘My world got very small very quickly and it was difficult.’
Among her friends Rachel is known as the dog person and has always loved them. When a friend suggested she get a pet, Rachel looked into assistance dogs.
She applied to Canine Partners and last June was given Darcey.
Rachel added: ‘She has made a huge difference to my life – more than what I expected.
‘I don't think people realise how much energy being in pain takes away from you. But Darcey helps do things for me so I can conserve that energy to take her for walks and get out the house.
‘Darcey can help take my coat off which reduces the risk of my shoulders dislocating and even simple things like getting the post saves me the time and energy of lowering myself out of bed, getting up slowly so I don’t pass out and then using a grabber so I don’t have to bend down to get it.
‘Small things like that that she can do are amazing. She has also helped massively with my mental health.
‘For those reasons I decided to write her a song.’
As part of their service, Canine Partners hold a first year anniversary for people with assistance dogs. During the event, Rachel met Darcey’s sponsor, who paid for her to be trained, and her puppy parents.
Then Rachel had to say how her life has improved.
‘I thought a song would be better than a speech,’ she said.
‘Plus Darcey deserves a song. When I performed it, I was nervous and there were a few tears.
‘It was important for me to highlight how incredible Canine Partners are.’