Support dog Tokai has provided a lifeline for a mother and son for the past eight years.

Trish Bretton’ support dog Tokai has not only transformed her own life for the better – but that of her son Luke too.

Trish, aged 52, from Wetherby in West Yorkshire, has suffered from multiple sclerosis for the past 13 years. Over the years it has progressed and affected her mobility, and she now needs a walking frame.

A single mum, Trish originally bought Tokai, a Labrador/ whippet cross, as a pet for Luke’s 14th birthday, so that he could get out and about with his friends and enjoy his teenage years.

But then she met someone with MS who had a support dog and realised it provided exactly the kind of help that she needed. She applied to Support Dogs for Tokai to be her disability assistance dogs, and Tokai was assessed, then passed her training with flying colours.

That meant when Tokai became Trisha’s official disability assistance dog Luke could go out and leave his mum safe in the knowledge that Tokai would look after her.

“I didn’t want Luke to be my carer and I didn’t want him to be stuck at home with me, or worry about leaving me on my own,” explained Trish. “As well as being an invaluable support to me, Tokai has given my son greater independence. He has thrived, and all the things he has done since we got Tokai has been down to her.

She has changed two lives – mine, and the life of my son.”

Luke, now 22, went to university, and is now a supply teacher and is in the RAF Reserves. He hopes to join the RAF in the future.

Trish’s MS has progressed since she was diagnosed in 2005. She describes it as ‘like a dripping tap, getting worse over time very slightly.’ She has had to give up work, doesn’t get out that often, and sometimes struggles to cope.

“I use a frame constantly but I can still drive – my car is like my mobility scooter, Says Trish. “ I could drive from Scotland to Devon, but the problem is when I get out of the car!”

Trish used to be able to walk Tokai in the local park, but now she drives to the park where her dog-walking friend takes Tokai for a free run, as she sits in the car.

Apart from her pride in Luke’s achievements, Tokai remains the shining light in Trish’s life.

“She is fantastic. She does so much around the house. Because of my balance I drop a lot of things and she is always there to she pick things up for me; the phone, the post, all sorts. And if there is a problem or I have a fall she barks on demand and alerts my neighbour, who knows something is going on. I doubt I would go out at all without her.

“I get very anxious when I’m in company, but when I’m with Tokai the conversation goes straight to her, and that stops me panicking; she is amazing.”

Says Luke: ''Having Tokai round definitely took a load of my mind. I was always happy to help but Tokai took away more of the worry associated with the circumstances, and like mum says it allowed me to get on with a number of things that ultimately led to where I am today.

“Tokai is such a smart dog and despite mum 'borrowing' her, she's definitely still my pet and friend. I'm very grateful for the help she lends Mum but I'm also thankful to Mum as I'm confident that Tokai's presence allowed her to keep me on the right track, making sure I got through all the things I was doing from 14 years old up until now.”

“I think we were both somehow relieved by Tokai being around, allowing us both to do what we needed to do.''

Tokai is coming to the end of her career as an assistance dog, and once retired will revert to being Luke’s pet

 Trish is due to be matched with a new dog by Support Dogs and go through the lengthy process of re-establishing a relationship with another canine companion. “I’m anxious about losing the one thing that keeps me going, “she says. “But of course I will be getting a lovely new dog – thank you Support Dogs.”