Gone are the days when “service dog” meant “seeing-eye dog.”
Service dogs can now perform dozens of specific tasks for people with disabilities like deafness, epilepsy, anxiety and mobility issues… and narcolepsy.
Kelly Sears, 19, a narcoleptic teen from Essex, England, has had the condition, in which people involuntarily fall asleep at inappropriate times, since she was 15, when doctors diagnosed her after she’d been falling asleep in class.
Theo, a 2-year-old Cocker Spaniel, has virtually put an end to Sears’ suffering. He can sense when she is about to have a narcoleptic episode and warn her so that she can sit or lie down, waking her after a few seconds with a kiss on her chin.
Since arriving two months ago from Medical Detection Dogs, the only organization in Europe that trains narcolepsy service dogs, Theo has proven himself indispensable.
Before meeting Theo, Sears would suffer minutes-long narcoleptic episodes, often sustaining cuts and bruises if she happened to be standing up when the attack struck.
“Theo has been amazing. He has made a huge difference to my life. I can go out on my own with him and feel confident that I will be all right if something happens. And when I am out now, I am not constantly worrying about falling asleep.”
Theo is a multipurpose pooch with many useful skills, including:
- Warning her if she’s about to have an episode.
- Ending the episode with a face lick.
- Fetching help if Sears injures herself when she falls asleep.
- Waking her up if she sleeps through her alarm clock.
As you might imagine, Theo and Sears are together every moment of the day. After all, narcolepsy can strike anywhere — as walking down the street, driving a car… even sitting on the toilet!
Says Sears, “I can fall asleep absolutely anywhere — when I am out shopping, on the bus, and I have even fallen down the stairs a few times. I am lucky that I have never been badly injured….
“People think that I have fainted or collapsed and will quite often call for an ambulance — but because Theo wears a jacket saying ‘medical alert dog in training’ they are not so worried.”
Sears’ story begs the question of whether dogs with narcolepsy could benefit from having a narcolepsy dog. If you haven’t seen the video about Coco the narcoleptic Dachshund, watch it now!
Source: Daily Mail; photo: ITV