Lydia (18) has Ehlers Danlos syndrome and was matched to assistance dog Ziva in February this year. Ziva was supposed to join Lydia and her family towards the end of March. Unfortunately, the start of lockdown meant that the pair of them had to wait for six months until they were able to start their journey together.

But it was worth the wait because while Ziva and Lydia have only been together for a few short weeks, the impact Ziva has had on Lydia’s life is truly life-changing.

“Ziva has changed so many things for me but I’d say the biggest thing is confidence,” says Lydia. “Before, I was always nervous of being out on my own in my wheelchair. I was scared I’d drop things and I was hugely self-conscious and stressed.

“Now, because I’m so focussed on Ziva, I pretty much forget about my all that. The other day, I went shopping with Mum and took myself off, picked some things out and then took them to and through the checkout. Something I’d never have done before.”

Lydia’s mum, Sophia, agrees and says:

“Ziva and Lydia are already a lovely team. The fact that Ziva can help Lydia with practical things like retrieving dropped items etc. is wonderful because it gives Lydia far more independence and I’m confident that Lydia’s future is brighter with Ziva by her side.

“I’ve heard Lydia laugh and giggle far more in the last few weeks than I have done for a very long time.”

Lydia says that Ziva is a real character.

“She gets excited about everything,” she laughs. “She wiggles and wriggles when she wags her tail and she’ll make little grunting noises when she wants belly rubs!

“I have hope for the future and that’s all down to Ziva. I’m already going out by myself to walk her and I’ve had people come up to me saying how clear it is that we adore one another. She’s amazing and I love her to bits.”