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Meet the first UK nurse who brings her assistance dog to work

Chloe Hammond with Ocho

A community care worker from Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, is thought to be the first nurse in the UK to bring an assistance dog to work.

Chloe Hammond was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, Behcets disease, Raynauds disease at the age of 15, since then her health has deteriorated. From 2018 she needed to use a wheelchair after a life-changing illness.

For the past two years Hammond has been training her Labrador service dog Ocho to assist her around the home and at work.

Ocho passed with flying colours, he completed the independent test, sailed through three further courses and finished his final assessment in May 2023.

He now assists Hammond with answering the phone, helping her take off clothes if it’s too hot, fetching her bag and passing objects to colleagues.

If Hammond visits someone who is not a dog lover, Ocho either stays with a dog-sitter or goes to a dog day-care centre.

Hammond, now 32, hopes to inspire other people to sign up and work for the NHS, regardless if they have a disability or not.

She told Mirror online: “I took a couple of years out of work when I was quite unwell - since getting Ocho I’ve had multiple promotions - I’m enjoying being a nurse again. Nursing with a disability is hard - but an assistance animal brings a different angle to nursing.

“I think he’s the most handsome dog in the whole world - patients tell me all the time. Everybody loves him! Even my boss loves him - he brings a different, calm energy. Being around unwell people all the time means he’s learned to control the excited puppy in him.”

In 2018 Hammond’s life changed forever, after being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome she suffered a severe migraine, she was bedridden for 18 months.

Spending two and a half years in bed took away her ability to walk, from then on she had to rely on crutches and a wheelchair.

Despite having to step down from her work as a paediatrician at Bristol Children’s Hospital, Hammond took a new role in the community, with the help of her best friend Ocho, donated by Dog A.I.D two years ago.

Hammond said: “We mainly focused on obedience training. I made sure he could walk really nicely next to me and stop him from getting distracted. We also worked on his fears - desensitising him to fireworks and other loud noises.

“Task work is a key skill for him as well. He can unload the washing machine, get the post from downstairs, help undress me and pick things up off the floor. These are the things that help hugely when I’m working. He helps to reach things if I’ve dropped them and he gets my meds for me whenever I need them.

“But in the evenings, that’s when he’s the most helpful because once I’m relaxed, I’ll realise I’m in pain or incredibly tired, and he can help with getting me to bed.

“It’s so easy to push yourself to keep working when you don’t have an assistance animal - but it’s that moment when you get home from work, and you realise you need them the most. In my current job, I work away a lot.

“Sometimes I can’t take Ocho into patients’ houses with me - but it’s still a relief to have him around.”

She added: “It’s scary to think dogs don’t live as long as humans - but he’s an amazing dog - I’ve only had him for a couple of years, but I feel like I’ve known him forever.”

[ Chloe Hammond  has been nominated for the Nursing Times’ Nurse of the Year Award. ]

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