A 16-year-old from St Neots who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is appealing to the public to help raise the £9,000 needed for a double hip replacement for her assistance dog Hunter.

Sophie Perkins, of Bedford Street, who was diagnosed with the condition, also known as ME, two years ago, initially got Hunter as a puppy, with the intention of having the German Shepherd trained as an assistance dog.

He assists by picking up things that Sophie asks for but training has been slowed by his condition. And he helps Sophie (pictured with Hunter) when she is moving around the house on her crutches. He leans on Sophie, helping her to keep her balance and has saved her a few times from falling and hurting herself.

Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia - a congenital condition where the ball and socket joint is deformed - at the age of one. It's painful, degenerative and can lead to the early on-set of arthritis.

"This is breaking my heart," said Sophie. "He is so special to me, well to the whole family. I'm determined to get Hunter his new hips because I owe him so much."

Hunter's condition is so serious that he needs a complete hip

replacement on both legs. Unfortunately, the operation is going to cost about £9,000, and that's with the vet Jon Hall at the Queen's University of Cambridge dropping his usual consultation fees. And as a pre-existing condition it is not covered by insurance.

Sophie and her mother Carloyn, 44, have launched a campaign to raise money for the operation Hunter will need before he is three.

They are appealing to people to donate to help the dog that has transformed the life of the 16-year-old, who also suffers from Chronic Pain Syndrome and has been unable to attend school since 2012.

"We got him when he was eight weeks old in 2013," said Sophie. "We clicked straight away. He was so loving and gentle, not to mention adorable. Me and Hunter are best friends. Having him around makes me feel safe and happy. I can always count on him to put a smile on my face.

"He helps in all sorts of ways. He is my friend, my protector and my little helper. He is still learning but we cannot train him as intensely as we used to because he is in too much pain and we don't want to hurt him further."

Friends and family - Sophie has a big sister, Danielle, 22, and two stepbrothers, Ryan, 20, and Josh, 15 - have given as much as they can. But, as yet, the family have raised a few hundred pounds. Any donation, small or large, will be gratefully received.

INFORMATION: For more details or to donate go to www.youcaring.com/pet-expenses/hunters-hips/298962.