When she was just 17 years old, Ms Emily Darbyshire’s life was turned upside down after encephalitis and meningitis had left her wheelchair bound and struggling to carry out everyday tasks the rest of us take for granted, like getting dressed in the morning. “I was 17, studying for my AS levels and a keen horse rider when I woke up one morning feeling like my head was going to explode. I was rushed to hospital, where I suffered multiple organ failure and was put on life support before being placed in an induced coma for six weeks. It was a horrendous time. But after I woke up, I assumed I’d get better” recalls Ms Darbyshire. “Seven months later, I was moved to a rehabilitation centre… I relearned the majority of my motor skills, but, devastatingly, not everything returned. I can no longer walk, I suffer from constant muscle spasms and I have a speech impediment. I also struggle to control my hands, so I often drop things.” Four years later, when Ms Darbyshire was 21 years old and studying in Chichester, her life was turned upside down again. For that was when she first met Yummy, her black labrador. Yummy is much more than just a companion, he is an assistance dog who has been trained by charity Canine Partners to help Ms Darbyshire cope with her disabilities. As Ms Darbyshire explains, “Before I got Yummy, it was often easier to stay at home, but he makes me get up and go out… When I graduated, he gave me the confidence to apply to John Lewis head office in London, where I got a job as a merchandiser. I couldn’t have contemplated the commute without him.” And Yummy doesn’t just work his magic when Ms Darbyshire is outdoors, he also does his fair share in the house too: “He’s made my life so much easier by helping me with everyday tasks. He loads the washing machine, takes things off supermarket shelves, opens kitchen cupboard doors and retrieves anything I’ve dropped. He even helps me put on and take off my socks and gloves. Yummy wakes me up in the morning by pressing his muzzle against me and wagging his bum so I get out of bed. At breakfast, he opens the fridge by pulling on a rope and gets me the milk. He then fetches anything I might need from upstairs and turns the lights off before we leave the house. In the evening, he gives me the remote control for the television and helps me get ready for bed by taking my socks off, something he loves doing.” Quite simply, “Yummy has given me my life back”, said Ms Darbyshire. What a top dog!