Stephen Greenhalgh and his faithful Labrador Retriever Crumble have become a familiar sight on the streets of Bolton as they take their twice daily constitutionals.

With Crumble firmly attached to his master’s electric wheelchair, the pair are out exercising every day, come rain or shine, each morning and afternoon, plus the odd trip to the shops.

Stephen, who is paralysed from the chest down, has had Crumble as his Support Dogs-trained disability assistance dog for the past three years. For the previous decade he had taken the same route with his first support dog, an ex-rescue Springer spaniel called Jerry.

“One of the major things when you are disabled is being stuck in the house, and having a dog gets you out and about, and you have to  go for a walk twice a day in all weathers whether you want to or not,” says Stephen, aged 55.

Twenty-eight years ago, just after leaving the Marines, Stephen’s active lifestyle came to an abrupt end when had a diving accident while on holiday on the Greek island of Kefalonia. He spent 13 months in the spinal unit at Southport Hospital recovering and learning to adapt to life as a tetraplegic.

Despite initial difficulties, including the end of his first marriage, he threw himself into his new life.

Ever-practical, Stephen had a specially adapted bungalow built to his personal specification, where he still lives with his second wife Edna, and his two step grandchildren, Lily, aged nine, and four-year-old Alfie.  He even designed and built his electric wheelchair so he could go off road and be more independent, and is still able to drive. And he had a series of office-based jobs, latterly working as an analyst for British Gas before taking early retirement on health grounds 12 years ago.

Finding out about Support Dogs made a big difference to his life. He had already trained pet dog Jerry to help him around the house but Support Dogs trainers refined and improved Jerry’s abilities. After he died the charity supplied him with Crumble, a calm, placid and utterly reliable replacement.

“There are two sides to having a support dog,” says Stephen. “One is the well-being effect of having a dog to walk - and since I’ve had a dog my health has been much better –and the other is the practical side of things, like helping you to pick things up like car keys that you’ve dropped. It might not happen every day but when it does it’s a godsend - so thank you Support Dogs. And they are such good companions.

Crumble is with me just about 24/7, and I wouldn’t be without him.”