While guide dogs assisting people with visual impairment have been around hundreds of years, it’s only been in the past three decades that people with epilepsy have discovered the difference specially trained canines can make in their lives.
Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides has trained more than 70 dogs to assist Canadians living with a seizure disorder. Identified by their jackets, these animals accompany people with severe seizure disorders at home and in public to ensure their safety.
Based in Oakville, Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides trains about 10 to 15 seizure response dogs each year.
Seizure response dogs receive extensive training. If a person goes into seizure at home, the dogs are trained to press Lifeline buttons and even speed-dial buttons on cordless and mobile phones to alert emergency response teams of the situation. In public, the dogs will bark to attract attention, should their owner go into seizure.
They are also trained to comfort people who have just had a seizure, snuggling against their owner to ease their anxiety.
Ian Ashworth, director of program development at Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, notes that if a person goes into seizure in public, passersby are often frightened and don’t know what to do. Seizure response dogs bridge a communication gap between their owner and the public, Ashworth says.
“If you’ve got a dog there that’s barking for attention and it has a vest on that says ‘Seizure Response Dog,’ then immediately people feel a lot more comfortable approaching the situation and getting involved,” he says.
“The dog barking brings attention and help much, much faster. A lot of clients we have had have said how much the dog has helped them in that regard. Whereas previously they may have been waiting a long time and maybe even injured themselves, now with their dog attention comes a lot faster.”
Seizure response dogs bring other benefits to their owners, such as companionship, Ashworth says.
The process for getting a seizure response dog starts with submitting an application outlining the severity of a person’s seizure condition, an authorized epilepsy diagnosis and references. Once Lions Foundation of Canada Guide Dogs has the application, an in-home assessment with a dog trainer is arranged to determine if the person would benefit from a seizure response dog.
Seizure response dogs are provided for free to those requiring them.
Click here for more information about Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
Writer: Deron Hamel
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