Adele, a black Labrador retriever, tells her owner what to do: stop, sit, lie down.
She is a heart service dog and is trained to alert her owner, Marty Harris, when there is a problem. Harris suffers from a chronic fainting disorder caused by an irregular heartbeat.
Harris finally found Adele at Canine Partners For Life in Pennsylvania, a non-profit agency that provides dogs for people with disabilities such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and seizure disorders. Two years are spent socializing and training the dogs to follow commands such as fetching cellphones, opening doors, and helping with other tasks.
Harris was on a waiting list for several months. When she finally found out that she got a service dog, Harris had to go through “doggy boot camp” to train with Adele for three weeks.
Adele is Harris’s early warning system and she knows when Harris is about to faint. This service dog signals to Harris that she needs to sit or lie down. When Adele senses that the danger has passed, she allows Harris to continue with her activities.
Harris says that Adele is her boss and that ever since she has gotten Adele, she has not fainted once. Before Adele came into her life, she was a chronic fainter.
Adele alerts Harris as many as 20 times a day to slow down and relax. She can even pull Harris up stairs, helps her steady when she goes down and is trained to lift Harris’s legs so that blood can get to her heart faster.
Adele wears saddlebags across her back that carries things like Harris’s cellphone, wallet and dog treats. Adele can even pay when her owner is in a store and is feeling faint. She holds the credit card in her mouth and hands it to the cashier. She even picks up laundry piece by piece to give to Harris to put in the washing machine. This helps Harris from bending or stooping which can cause her to faint. Unfortunately, Adele doesn’t fold.
More on Adele and service dogs after the jump.
From Boston Globe:
No one really knows how dogs such as Adele do it. The theories are that the dog picks up a change in scent or behavior. “We believe there are chemical changes going on in a person’s body” before an episode , says Darlene Sullivan, founder and executive director of Canine Partners for Life . “We don’t have any scientific proof. It’s just a natural instinct. It’s one of the mysteries of dogs.”
Hard as it is to believe, Harris’s doctor thinks the key might be the dog’s hearing. “Since it is well recognized that the usual trigger for neurocardiogenic syncope is a fast heartbeat, it is likely that the dog is sensing Marty’s tachycardia and warning her,” Januzzi says. “Having said that, I have no idea how [Adele] is doing it, but the results speak for themselves. Marty’s quality of life is better, she’s more confident, and all in all I think it’s darn near miraculous.”
Harris believes it is a combination of scent and hearing, but she does not really know how Adele does what she does: “Sometimes you don’t question the gift; you just accept it.”
Harris says that “Adele has given me my life back.”