A DOG lover has told how his tiny chihuahua helped him beat crippling depression.
Cesar Rapanut had a mental breakdown and had to leave his job as a clinical services manager in the NHS two years ago.
His therapist recommended he got a pet and when his partner David handed little Chihuahua pup Chelsea to him on Christmas Day, Cesar never could have dreamed how much his life would change for the better.
Now the pair are inseparable and are so close that they even DRESS the same.
The furry fashionista has appeared as an extra in The Only Way Is Essex and has her own Facebook and Instagram pages with thousands of fans around the world.
Cesar, 47, from Folkestone in Kent, said: “She’s changed my life. We call her Lady Chelsea as she can be a bit of a diva and I love to match her outfit to whatever I’m wearing.
“Whenever I buy any clothes, I’ll check to make sure I can find the same material to make an outfit for her too.
“She has clothes in polka dot patterns, tweed, a Union Jack outfit and a checked houndstooth dress.
“She has nearly 100 bespoke outfits and everywhere we go, we look the same.
“Having her in my life has completely saved me and pampering her is the least I can do to thank her for the way she has helped me through the dark times.”
Their story echoes that of London busker James Bowen, 37, who had a film made about his relationship with his cat Bob, A Street Cat Named Bob, which is out in cinemas now.
It tells the real life story of how the stray ginger cat helped James overcome his demons after years of living on the streets and battling drugs. James found the cat in his doorway and the pair became inseparable.
First it reached YouTube, then the Islington Tribune newspaper before being turned into the book, A Street Cat Named Bob And How He Saved My Life, and then a film.
Lady Chelsea’s story is slightly more lavish. She enjoyed a trip to Paris last month for her 2nd birthday, taking in sights like the Eiffel Tower while dressed in a cute yellow and black jacket to match Cesar’s outfit and sunglasses.
When her legs were too tired, she was pushed round in a pink iCandy pram and the trio wolfed down a £300 gourmet meal. “Everyone just fell in love with her,” said Cesar.
She has regular trips to the groomers for blow dries and to have her teeth cleaned and every day she tucks into home cooked beef and vegetables, with fruit for snacks to keep her healthy.
She loves to walk, but often travels around in a Bally handbag and has Gucci clothes and collars, designer sunglasses and strings of pearls, just like Chloe, the dog in the film Beverley Hills Chihuahua that first inspired Cesar to start creating outfits!
She has her own casting agent, Urban Paws UK and recently appeared on The Only Way Is Essex.
Cesar explained: “I watched the film with my god-daughter who was only nine at the time. The main character, Chloe, was just like Chelsea and it was so uplifting watching the film that I decided I wanted to pamper my dog too. I went home and ordered her an outfit, a little turquoise dress from eBay.
“As soon as I put it on her, she just loved it. Then I decided I wanted to make outfits of my own. I used to make children’s clothes when I was younger back in the Philippines, so David bought me a sewing machine and started making patterns.
“Now I can make pretty much anything and it makes me so proud to see her walking around in my creations. She absolutely loves them too and you can see her little face light up.”
Chelsea’s life isn’t all about pampering though. She still enjoys a daily walk to the park where she plays with other pooches and every weekend she goes to training sessions where she learns tricks such as walking on her back legs, bowing, holding a flower in her mouth and giving high 5’s.
Now Cesar wants to work with mental health charities to spread the word of how important companion dogs can be in helping people fight depression
He said: “I still have down days, but having Chelsea in my life means I have to get out of bed and take her for a walk. Just being in the fresh air helps, and seeing her happy boosts my mood.
“I feel blessed that my therapist told me a dog would help. That’s why I want to share my story and for as many people as possible to see Chelsea and how much she has helped me.”