A DARLINGTON woman has transformed herself from a recluse to public speaker with the help of her beloved guide dog.

Partially sighted Susan Collis was paired with her dog Toby after narrowly avoiding being hit by a car while walking with her young daughter.

The 41-year-old says the shock of the incident was what she needed to look into getting a guide dog.

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She has now had Toby for more than two years and recently trained to become an official speaker for the Guide Dogs charity.

In her new role, Ms Collis will visit schools, community groups and organisations to tell them about the increased mobility and independence Toby has provided.

She said: “Before I got him, I was a bit of a recluse and only went out to take my daughter to school.

“I was very isolated and lost my personal skills but Toby has made a big difference.

“My life has totally changed and it’s the opposite to what it was before.

“I’d love to share the difference Toby has made to my life as well as the other fantastic work Guide Dogs does for blind and partially sighted people like myself.

“Toby and I can’t wait to get out into the local community.”

Sue Robinson, community fundraiser for the charity, said: “I’m delighted that she will be able to tell people the heart-warming story of the amazing partnership she has with Toby and of Guide Dogs mission to ensure that all people who are blind or partially sighted have the same freedom of movement as everyone else.”

To arrange a visit from Ms Collis and Toby email jamiecollis@hotmail.com or call 0345 143 0220.