One afternoon, Rose and I were shopping in a large department store. Rose was several yards away from me between the clothes racks. I could see the top of her head. I saw her head turn to look at two people and a dog strolling through the aisles in her direction. I knew she had spotted the dog’s vest. I also knew that she would be interested in watching the dog in action.
The big, shaggy hound was wearing a red triangular vest on its harness. The vest was a sign that the dog was a service dog of some sort. Our family had discussed the possibility of getting a ‘seizure dog’ several times. Rose had no aura before most of her seizures. Having a dog that could alert her that a seizure was coming would be a nice warning. Rose could at least get to the floor before falling down.
I watched Rose watching the dog approach. The two adults were deep in conversation. They were paying attention to each other and not the dog. As I stood watching, the dog turned and walked away from the two people. It stopped and stood in front of Rose. I watched as my daughter and this dog looked into each others eyes.
The trainer was surprised by the dog’s behavior. He pulled on its retractable leash and gave a command for it to return to the side of the other adult. The dog hesitated to leave Rose. He paused for a few more seconds, before rejoining his trainer. The two seemed surprised by the dog’s break in training.
I spoke to the two people. I told them that Rose had epilepsy. Their looks of dismay turned into smiles. This gentle giant of a dog was a seizure dog in training. What they first thought of as bad behavior on his part, now took on a different meaning. The dog knew that Rose had epilepsy. His name was Mr. Biggles. He was with his trainer and new owner.
I got the name and number of the company that trained the dog. The threesome continued to slowly stroll around the store. Rose and I looked at each other in wonder. “How did he know?” she asked me.
It was my turn to be concerned. My first thought was that maybe he sensed an on-coming seizure. I told Rose that possibly he could smell the various seizure medications in her sweat?
Either way, I had a new hope for Rose. Maybe someday a dog could help to keep her safe.
SEIZURE MAMA SPEAKS NOW
We have not gotten a seizure dog for Rose during these twenty-four years. We had other dogs while she was growing up. This would have complicated the training of a companion pet. We did seriously consider one during the times when her seizures were frequent. They can be very expensive.
I did talk to a woman from this company about training a dog for Rose. She said that the dog must be trained with the person while having seizures. Roses seizures became so infrequent, that it would not be possible to train a dog for her. This was a mixed blessing.
Now that Rose is an adult, she may need a service dog just for protection. She goes places by herself. She is very independent. Several weeks ago, Rose had a seizure while away at college. It was at night while she walking beside a road. A dog could have at least stopped traffic.
If Rose ever needs a seizure dog, this little incident that happened in the store years ago convinced me that there are dogs who can sense more than her mama can. I am sure that Mr. Biggles has been a blessing to his owner.