'Guardian angel': Pet dog who warns owner before seizures given award
- Credit: Robert Stuhldreer
A pet who warns her owner before he has an epileptic seizure has been given an award for her loyalty and devotion.
Robert Stuhldreer's medical assistance dog Kin, a six-year-old Japanese Akita Inu, was awarded the commendation as part of the pet charity's PDSA's award programme to recognise acts of animal devotion and bravery.
Robert, 60, of Holloway, who has had atonal epilepsy, has no idea when seizures will happen, and has broken his nose, cheek bone and shoulder in the past when falling to the ground.
But Kin is able to sense before the seizures happen, and gives him a signal so he can reach safety or at least lie down on the floor beforehand.
Robert said: "Akitas are an independent breed, and normally they'd be off somewhere else on their own in the house, but before a seizure, Kin will find me and give me direct eye contact.
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"If we are out walking she will stop dead, which is not unusual for a Japansese Akita breed, so if I don't pay too much attention to the first signal, she's insistent and she will block me so that I can't go any further and I know at that point a seizure is imminent.
"If I'm really stupid and I've chosen to ignore that signal, she will gently get hold of my hand in her mouth.
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"It's difficult to put into words, but all I can do is describe my dog as a guardian angel."
He added: "Without having an assistance dog life would be very difficult, in that there would be the constant worry of going out and having a seizure and being on your own, falling, breaking bones, and having to go to hospital.
"In the past I've had a seizure and someone stole my wallet.
"You are extremely vulnerable, and it takes the vulnerability away."
Robert had a previous assistant dog Flora who died last year, who attended specialist assistance dog training, but he trained Kin himself using the same techniques.
He said: "With epilepsy it's actually very difficult to put the dog in a situation where you as the handler may be having a seizure, but some dogs have an inherent skill.
"To be really nerdy, there's a science theory called theory of mind, and it's seen in some dolphins and higher primates, and in a few dogs.
"The theory is that one species can detect another species is in danger and they communicate that danger so the other species can take action.
"It's not something that can be taught."