Heroic Islington dogs who raise alarm seconds before seizures honoured

Islington owner Robert Stuhldreer with the late Flora, an award-winning assistance dog

Islington owner Robert Stuhldreer with the late assistance dog Flora - Credit: Robert Stuhldreer

Islington assistance dogs Flora and Kin, an Akita and Japanese Akita Inu respectively, have been presented with People's Pet Awards.

Flora, who passed away in September 2020 and received a posthumous award, was the first ever Akita in the country to qualify as an assistance dog.

Kin, seven, is the only working assistance dog of her breed in this country.

Islington-based owner, Robert Stuhldreer currently owns five dogs: two Hungarian Pumik, a Border Collie and two Akitas named Kin and Astrid. He has trained all of his dogs himself. 

Robert's current pack

Robert's current pack - Credit: Robert Stuhldreer

The Akita breed is “so hyper-intelligent, they think outside the box. I’ve been fortunate to live with them since 1999."

Robert has a condition called atonal epilepsy which causes seizures and he has no indication of when the seizures will happen. He also suffered injuries from a car crash.

He said: “There’s a theory called theory of mind, and this is when one animal species can detect a danger to a second species. They’re then able to communicate that danger, so the second species can take preventative action.

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“It’s quite a rare phenomenon, fortunately for me it’s seen in some dogs,” said Robert.

Flora, an Akita, and Kin, a Japanese Akita Inu, on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral

Flora, an Akita, and Kin, a Japanese Akita Inu, on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral - Credit: Robert Stuhldreer

Kin, who learnt from Flora, will alert Robert of a seizure by sitting directly in front of him and giving him sharp eye contact.

If walking, Kin will give Robert multiple alert signals.

“What both dogs would do is, if we’re walking, just stop dead. If a seizure was imminent, they would give two more very clear signals – the first one would be they would walk directly in front and block my path.

“If I was foolish enough to ignore that second signal, they would gently get hold of my hand and pull my arm in a downwards motion.

“At that point, I know I’ve just got seconds before there’s a seizure, so I need to lie down in a place of safety very quickly."

He says the dogs' success rate for detecting seizures is 100 per cent. 

Flora winning her class at Crufts

Flora winning her class at Crufts - Credit: Caroline Goodall

Last year, Robert received a phone call inviting the late Flora and Kin to the People's Pet Awards ceremony, which took place on December 9 2021.

Astrid, Kin's apprentice, also attended the ceremony to accept Flora’s award on her behalf.

This year, Astrid will be competing in Crufts in March and Robert will work alongside charity The Assistance Dog Assessment Association.