When people think of Service Dogs, most people think about Guide Dogs. But Service Dogs can be trained to assist with a wide range of invisible disabilities and conditions. Cardiac Alert/Response Dogs are a specialized type of Medical Alert Dog. And they save lives.
Eric is a Cardiac Alert Dog. And he saved his handler’s life last Thursday, June 20th, 2013. Edward Colie III of Columbia, South Carolina has a high-risk heart condition and has a significant history of heart related trouble.
While it takes hundreds of hours of professional training to teach a dog to alert on drops in blood pressure, some intuitive dogs are able to detect the shifts on their own. Lucky for Edward Colie, his Cardiac Alert Dog, Eric, was one of the special few. With the guidance from private trainers, Eric was trained to turn the signals he was already detecting into a tangible alert.
This training came into play last Thursday evening when Colie was visiting a friend. As Colie and his friend chatted, Eric began to paw at Colie’s leg. When Colie didn’t react, Eric jumped into Colie’s lap and thumped his head on his chest, which is the alert Eric is trained to perform when he detects cardiac trouble.
Immediately, Colie left his friend’s house and started on the short drive home. He slowly began to realize that his left eye was becoming blinded. “Sparklies” over a black background began to emerge.
Once at home, he found he had difficulty opening the driver’s door because he had lost control of his left side. When he exited the truck, he collapsed and hit his head on the running board, almost knocking himself out. Then, Colie’s wife took over and rushed him to the Emergency Department.
Thanks to Eric, minimal damage was done and Colie is recovering. Eric’s success in alerting to a stroke was something no one expected of him. Eric’s natural ability paired with rigorous training has saved Colie’s life on a number of occasions. Without Eric, there’s a good chance that Edward Colie wouldn’t be alive.
Eric happens to be a miniature red poodle — an excellent example why no one should judge a Service or Working Dog by their breed or size, but rather for their training, the tasks and work that they do to assist their handlers and their determination to keep their handlers safe.
Science hasn’t determined how some dogs are able to alert on drops in blood pressure, blood sugar or other changes in body chemistry. Some believe it’s sense of smell. Others believe that it may be the dog’s hearing that allows them to hear the sound of supraventricular tachycardia and then be trained to produce a warning. In either case, it’s an example of how some dogs are able to become bonded with their owners in ways we’ve only begun to understand.
Colie was released from the hospital last Saturday, June 22nd, 2013. He is expected to make a full recovery.