What’s it like when your beloved assistance dog has to retire and you have to form a brand new relationship with a new pooch? It’s something that many of our clients have to come to terms with.

Trisha Bretton was understandably apprehensive when Tokai, her beloved disability assistance dog of the previous nine years, had to retire after reaching the age of ten.

Tokai had transformed both Trisha’s life and that of her son Luke’s, enabling Trisha, who has MS, to remain independent of her son, for whom she bought Tokai as a 14th birthday gift.

She needn’t have worried, as the Support Dogs’ training team provided Trish with the perfect replacement pooch. Now newbie Cassie and old hand Tokai – both lookalike yellow Labradors - are the best of friends. And with Luke now in the RAF, Trish’s life revolves almost entirely around her two canine companions.

“I had Tokai as my disability assistance dog for nine years so, yes, I was worried at the beginning of the training with Cassie, but the two dogs get on so well it’s unbelievable,”says Trisha, now 54.

“They complement each other. Cassie wants to play and is much more energetic, while Tokai is 12 now. They are both very different.

“When we go out for a walk together Tokai will run off and as long as I am in sight she will go a long way away whereas Cassie stays with me – because I have the ball and she loves playing with the ball.

“The two of them are very attuned to each other and it’s so easy. Although she’s retired, Tokai still does the odd thing for me although Cassie does the majority now. It’s been a very easy transition. It’s a massive relief.”

Cassie’s practical help and assistance around the house is immensely valuable. Trisha has balance issues due to her MS and often drops things so Cassie helps with that, barks for attention when asked, and helps  loading and unloading the washing machine.

But she fulfils an even more important role.

“She gives me confidence and a reason to go out of the door,” says Trisha. “She gets me up at eight o’clock and I take her out.”

Trisha realised just how important Cassie and Tokai are to her life when she recently popped into a café on her own.

She’d left Cassie at home because she was very muddy after a walk in the fields near their home. But Trisha had to leave after becoming anxious and panicky.

 “I had to leave very quickly because my anxiety was off the scale,” says Trisha. “I have had a dog with me for 12 years and had got completely used to the support they gave me. You don’t know it’s going to be an issue until it happens, or realise how much you depend on the dogs.”

Trisha and Cassie have been a partnership for a year (March 2019), and thanks to her dog’s support Trisha, who lives in Wetherby in West Yorkshire, can manage her life without the need for human carers: something she is keen to avoid. She now has a mobility car so she and the dogs can visit nearby Knaresborough and Harrogate.

Trisha describes her MS, which she developed in 2005, as a ‘dripping tap’. It’s always there and not getting better, but with her mobility car and of course her disability assistance dogs, she is able to maintain a good level of independence.

She adds: “My dogs are a godsend and great company and they give me a reason to carry on. Cassie is perfect. Support Dogs said she would be right for me and they were right. “