Buying a puppy and having it successfully trained as a disability assistance dog by Support Dogs has given client Sydney a reason to look to the future with confidence.

When Sydney Lamb had got to the point where she didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, she knew she needed a dog. The former management accountant had to give up work after being diagnosed with ME and functional neurological disorder which caused cognitive problems, pain, severe exhaustion and vertigo. “It was when my neurologist told me that I could not go back to work that I rang up and bought Lottie,” says Sydney, aged 52, from Bristol. “I just wanted some company, and I’d always wanted a dog. I was very down and had got to the stage where I thought: ’what’s the point of getting up’, but if you have a dog you have to get up.”

”Having Lottie means I can go out of the house with more confidence”

Lottie is a large ‘Newfipoo’ – a calm, cuddly cross between a standard poodle and a Newfoundland and it’s fair to say that she has transformed Sydney’s life. From being at a very low ebb to coming to terms with a very different lifestyle to the previously busy one she was used to, Sydney acknowledges that Lottie has helped her slowly regain some independence and to rebuild her life.

“My condition means that every week or so I will feel very disorientated and ill and end up on the floor and can’t move, and then I feel sick, sweaty, exhausted and in pain for some time afterwards,” she explains. “I also have cognitive problems. I was forgetting things, and it gradually got worse until I was very unwell. “I had always worked in managerial or financial jobs and had a maths degree so thought I was fairly intelligent and in control; but all of a sudden, I couldn’t remember things or do simple things like call phone numbers. “I used to work long hours and all my contacts were at work; I didn’t have time to see friends so had few local friends as any spare time was spent with my husband and children. When I had to give up work, I went from having no spare time to having nothing to do.”

Doctors suggested that gentle walking might help certain aspects of Sydney’s condition, and having a dog was an ideal solution. “We had a big garden, so even if I couldn’t walk the dog I could throw a ball for her, or my husband and daughters who were still living at home at the time could take her for walks for me.” Sydney noticed that Lottie helped to keep her in a straight line when they walked together and wanted her to get formally trained to do that consistently, but had reservations. “I found Support Dogs and thought that was exactly what I needed. I love Lottie and she is such a massive part of my life, but I was worried it might take away all her personality by training her.”

Her fears were unfounded. Lottie has proved to be incredible around the house and when they are out in public but put her in a field without her jacket and she is like a spring lamb running all over the place, just enjoying being a dog. Sydney says: “Lottie has proved to be incredible around the house; she picks things up for me off the floor – if I am dizzy, bending down is a nightmare – or if I am on the sofa feeling rotten, she will fetch my slippers, my socks or a blanket. She opens doors for me but is yet to do the ironing or washing up! “Outside the home she is absolutely fantastic. Dogs are usually trained to walk to heel but I wanted her to walk slightly in front of me and that keeps me propelled forward and in a straight line.”

Sydney says that the bond is even stronger with an assistance dog than with a pet dog. “She knows when I need her, and she is absolutely glued to my side when I start feeling unwell. I am very vulnerable when I’m on the floor outside, so she sits down next to me and braces to help me get up.” Sydney now lives alone, so Lottie’s support is even more essential. She says: “When we go out to the shops and she has her jacket on, people come and talk to me. She is a stunning looking dog, and always attracts attention. Having Lottie means I can go out of the house with more confidence.”

Sydney used to be very nervous about going out on her own but now, with Lottie, she travels to see her daughters in London on the Tube, bus and train, and Lottie keeps her safe and in a straight line. The pair have been to the theatre, cinema, and comedy clubs. “When we are in a shop, she gives me that little bit of stability. Having Lottie with me means I can concentrate on her and she will get things off the shelf for me,” she adds. “She has given me confidence when I am out, and she is a lovely companion. “Support Dogs are so flexible and understand our needs, and I have been amazed at how much they can get dogs to do! They have been wonderful.

  • To find out more about our disability assistance programme go to