A former police officer from Croydon who had to leave the force after an injury has described how he found new purpose in life thanks to the friendship and support of a new dog.

South Croydon man Brian Hickman, 49, was medically discharged from the Met Police after he suffered a debilitating spinal injury while on the job that left him reliant on a wheelchair.

As he neared his leaving date, Brian said he became anxious with what the future might hold, realising that he needed support beyond that given by his wife and daughters.

Then he found the charity Dog AID (Assistance in Disability) and through the group met a volunteer dog trainer who helped him train Lily (pictured) to become a fulltime assistance dog.

Brian described Lily as "my little fluffy shadow, my guardian angel in her bright yellow and red jacket".

"She picks up the post, finds my phone when I fall, alerts people when I am out if I need help and beyond this, she has given me my confidence back," he added.

"She is my lifeline and I’d be lost without her."

After his discharge, finding work with his disability was hard for Brian, and he said Lily helped immeasurably in that regard after she was fully trained and able to be with him around the clock.

With her help in the role he was offered a job as an exam invigilator at Trinity School in Croydon, helping support certain students and calm their nerves during exams.

The advent of Covid meant no exams were held last year.

However, the school instead became a site for Covid-19 testing in the community and Brian and Lily again stepped in to help out.

"Lily has been exceptional as she always is, thanks to the training of Dog A.I.D. Seeing Lily’s wagging tail and friendly demeanour puts people at ease instantly, making testing much easier and more efficient," he said.

"Without the charity Dog A.I.D and Trinity School, I would not have been able to work, or go out by myself for the fear of needing assistance... I cannot thank them enough.

"Having Lily means I have to think about her needs as well as my own, and knowing Lily needs exercise encourages me out the door on many days.

"Lily helps not only me but brings happiness to many other people's lives as well."

For more information about Dog AID and details on how to support them, click here.