As students anxiously await their GCSE and A Level results, an unusual pair from Lowick are already celebrating their own exam success.
Susan Fulton and her furry friend, assistance dog Esther, recently graduated from training with flying colours.
The pair were put together by national charity Canine Partners, which trains assistance dogs to help people with disabilities deal with the demands of daily life.
Susan had led a limited life for more than two decades following a spinal injury. But she says her life completely changed when she was partnered with Esther just over a year ago.
“I was given a wonderful canine partner in May 2013 and she has completely changed my life,” Susan said. “When I applied to Canine Partners I had expectations but Esther by far exceeds them.”
Esther helps Susan with everyday tasks, such as opening doors, getting dressed and doing laundry.
“She’s so much better than I had imagined,” Susan admitted. “She’s changed my life.”
Training continues after a dog is paired with a new owner, and Canine Partners return for regular assessments. Now, a year after being put together, Esther and Susan have graduated with flying colours.
“We passed our final assessment - with distinction!” Susan told the Advertiser.
“I was surprised at achieving the distinction but delighted that Esther showed the assessor how wonderful she is! Before telling me we had passed, the lady did give me a shock by saying ‘I’m afraid I need to take Esther away to use as a display dog...’
“It took me a few seconds before realising she was joking and my heart had sunk - although I was about to lock the doors so that she couldn’t take Esther away!”
Their graduation ceremony at Canine Partners head office in Heyshott was due to be held later this month, but Susan has postponed it until October so she can be at the first Big Northumberland Dog Walk in aid of Canine Partners, which takes place near Plessey Woods on August 16.
“I wouldn’t want to miss saying thank you to everyone raising money to help, not just us, but the many folk on what is now a two year waiting list,” Susan said.