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Cardiac Alert Dog saves handler from stroke

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.



  • Elaine Esposito June 26, 2013

    Wow! I’m very glad that Eric was able to pick up on that! Very interesting story. Would love to see more articles posted by this author! She seems to have a wealth of knowledge about dogs. Can’t wait to see what else she has to share with us!!!

  • Tannis Walker July 31, 2014

    I found this website and was absolutely thrilled and amazed because I have been working for over a year now to have my dog trained in cardiac alert on June 4, 2014 she stood up and pawed my leg letting me know that something wasn’t right 30 seconds later I had a major cardiac event happened I was able to get to the nearest hospital to have it stopped and then I was able to be stabilized and get to the Cleavland Clinic where they could fix the problem. It is amazing what these animals can do I’ve had great joy and success with this little dog.

  • Diane Marton April 30, 2015

    I have a condition called aortic stenosis and could have a ha at any time. My Sheltie has started training but I would like him to have the specific cardiac training…where can I obtain this information? thank you..

  • Gladys January 17, 2016

    Where can I locate this

  • THOMAS SIMONTON May 1, 2017

    Hello My name is Thomas.
    I was wondering how can I get a service dog. I done had 3 heart attacks in one day. I have a defibrillator in.

  • Judy Anderson May 14, 2017

    My dog has never been trained for a service dog but has saved my life a number of times. A month before my 2nd heart attack he tried to tell me every day something was wrong. I didn’t know what he was trying to tell me till that dreadful night. He woke me up as I was having a heart attack. I ended up having g bi- pass surgery. When I got home my BP dropped dangerously low along with my oxygen. He woke me again. Now I listen to him
    How do I get him certified to be my service dog? He obviously doesn’t need the training. He has been certified as a therapy dog. But I need him as my service dog now. Please help me find out how I can do This.
    Judy Anderson

  • Tracy Pike October 5, 2017

    Hi my name is Tracy. I am a 52 y.o. Female. I had my first H/A in 2001 at the age of 34 and had O/H surgery. The cause was a rare heart disease named Left Desending Spontaneous Artery Dissection. It’s a condition where the walls of the arteries are weak and blood pressure has a connection to making the arteries start to unravel due to straining or the hard pumping of the blood through the arteries. Therefore leading to a H/A. I have had four dissections in the past two years causing ICU hospitalizations. I am on blood thinners, lots of blood pressure medication, potassium medicine, HCTZ, and an 81mg baby aspirin everyday. Is there a way to get a service dog to pickup on this problem. Thanks.

  • Jill January 5, 2018

    Where can I find a cardio service dog?


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