The loving bond between a high school student and her service dog

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Credit: Erin Condrin

You don’t often hear about a vibrant 16-year-old having to deal with permanent life struggles.

Erin Jane Condrin from Queensland, Australia has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a connective tissue disorder. Multiple systems of Erin’s body are impacted daily. “My joints are hugely impacted; I dislocate up to 20 times during the day, causing pain and fatigue,” said Erin.

“Due to the damage and pain caused from the dislocations I am a full-time wheelchair user – I use both a power and manual chair depending on how I am feeling that day. I struggle with everyday activities such as tying shoelaces, writing and using cutlery.”

In early in 2015, Erin put an application into Canine Helpers Australia for an assistance dog. Lacey, a 3-year-old  Golden Retriever, and I trained with the help of Canine Helpers trainer, Andrew, for around 6 months before we passed our public access test and Lacey became a government certified Assistance Dog.  

“Thanks to Lacey, I am so much more independent. For example, if I drop something, I can ask Lacey to pick it up, instead of waiting for someone to come over and help me. Lacey helps me open and close doors – meaning I can use accessible bathrooms independently, put on and off clothes, carry bags as well as helping me with wheelchair transfers by putting up/down my footplate.”

“Emotionally Lacey has made such a positive impact, during hospital stays and rest periods at home, I know I always have someone by my side. Being a young disabled person can be daunting – but facing the world with an adorable fluffball by my side makes it so much easier.”

Lacey was involved in all the lead up to Erin’s senior formal.  Lacey did not attend the actual event, as Lacey and Erin had only been a team for a few months.  Erin and her family did not feel ready to take Lacey to an event with such a massive crowd and so many flashing lights. “I can’t wait to take her to formal events in the future though. Lacey has many different costumes. It was only natural that she would have a matching dress to mine. We asked my very talented dress maker if she’d be willing to sew Lacey a skirt out of the left over material from my dress and she was all for the idea!”

“Lacey is my best friend!” said Erin.

For more information on Erin and Lacey: