99: Our Rescue Dog Rescues My Wife

99: Our Rescue Dog Rescues My Wife

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Our Rescue Dog Rescues My Wife

Fun fact: Seizure alert dogs sense oncoming attacks so people can find a safe place or seek help. Some dogs are even trained to press a button to contact emergency responders.

Our dog jumped on the bed at 4:00 a.m., stepped on me and continued to paw at my face until I woke up. He knows he’s not allowed on the bed, but he knew he had to wake me: My wife was having a seizure.

My wife Brandy suffers from lupus, a chronic illness that takes its toll on her body daily. To exacerbate her disease, she was also recently diagnosed with epilepsy. A seventy-two-hour EEG showed she had at least ten seizures within three days, mostly late at night while sleeping. This night, however, the seizure was the most severe.

Porter, our chocolate Labrador Retriever, had been very anxious before we went to bed. He paced the floor, went outside only to come back in moments later, barked at random, licked my wife’s hand, and would do pretty much anything for attention. Little did we know, he was trying to warn us.

When Porter woke me, the bed was shaking vigorously. I called Brandy’s name repeatedly, with no response from her. I turned on the lights and saw Porter lying across Brandy’s lap as she seized, trying to comfort her. I could see a scared look in his deep, golden eyes. He wasn’t sure what was wrong, but was trying his best to help her.

When my wife came to, she had a crushing headache and a temperature of 105 degrees. I wasn’t sure if it was the epilepsy or the fever that caused the seizure, but we immediately went to the emergency room. Brandy was admitted to the hospital for observation, fluids, and treatment for the flu. After a few days, she was released and sent home. To this day, Porter does not leave her side.

Curious, I did some research on service dogs and how they may benefit epilepsy patients. Surprisingly, about fifteen percent of dogs have an innate ability to predict seizures before they occur. Labradors are a common breed for “seizure alert” animals, in addition to German Shepherds, Setters, and Border Collies. While there isn’t really a way to “train” a dog to provide an alert for a seizure, some will warn their owners by pawing, barking, or licking them. This allows the owner to prepare for a seizure by sitting down or getting to a safe place. A few dogs even respond by using their body to brace their owner if he or she falls down.

When we first got Porter, I knew he was special… I just never knew how special he would turn out to be. As a friendly stray, he showed up at our house the evening of an ice storm. He was cold and hungry, so he claimed an old couch in our garage for the night. The next day, I posted his photo on numerous local Facebook groups and Craigslist. He had no collar, no microchip, and, sadly, no owners. I often ask myself how someone could throw away such a beautiful animal.

I had been looking for a dog, and Porter was the perfect fit for us. His presence even helped me work through some anxiety and depression issues I had been suffering for years. His companionship was far greater than any medication the doctors prescribed. In short, he was my new best friend.

He came to us looking for a family, and I am glad he made his way into our garage that night and our hearts forever. I like to tell people that Porter is a rescue animal that decided to adopt us. While I’m away at work and the kids are in school, I know that Porter is on constant watch while my wife is home alone. He alerts us to people at our door and keeps the kids warm at night when he sneaks into their rooms. And now, when he starts acting out of the norm, we pay close attention to my wife for possible signs of an oncoming seizure.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure why or how seizure alert animals respond. Some suggest it’s a unique smell as the body chemistry changes before a seizure. Others say there are minor changes in a person’s mood or body language that dogs can sense. Whatever it is, I’m a believer.

~Sonny Cohrs

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