I enjoyed a programmed called ‘Dogs’ on Netflix this weekend and it really made me think. It is a documentary series of six different ways in which we use dogs in our modern lives and the first one was, coincidentally, a seizure alert dog in USA. The film features Corinne, a teenager, and her family. She suffered badly with epilepsy and as she would stop breathing during her seizures, so she could never be left alone. Her mother slept on the floor of her bedroom every night, after she had her first seizure at puberty, as they had found her blue after her first unexpected seizure. It showed her her younger sister was her constant guardian and how angry and upset Corrine would becoame after seizures. We needed this back-story to set Corrine’s story in context, but my husband would say, ‘Isn’t our life hard enough, without watching someone else’s struggle?’ but I enjoy this kind of progrmamme, showing other families and how they manage with familiar struggles.
The film went onto show the whole family’s excitement to hear they had been accepted for Rory, a seizure-alert dog and all the hopes that they were pinning on this labradoodle puppy. They had to go on a 12 day induction programme with 10 other families, each with different disabilites but all due a support dog. The young dogs were introduced one by one and each child immediately fell in love and cudled their furry friends. Of course I wept and Ruby, our intuitive cocker spaniel, climbed on my knee and tried to lick the tears away, which made it worse! They were told that these were working dogs, not a family pet and that Rory’s role was to take care of Corrine. So once again , her younger sister was upset as she had been hoping to gain a family dog but once again her poorly sister took priority. She was not even allowed to feed Rory treats or take him out to play, as he had to focus on his work and on Corrine. I had never before seen epilepsy from a sibling’s perspective and it was a sad angle to understand.
As part of the training, Corrine lay on the floor twitching to demonstrate her seizure pose and her Mum had to tell her what she was like as she never knew, as she was inside rather than outside of the seizure. Rory barked continuously while she lay fitting on the floor , to gain attention. So the intention was that Corrine could gain some of her independence back, as Rory would alert people that a seizure was happening, or even coming, once he got the scent for it. She would finally be able to go out for a coffee with her friends, without her mother tagging along as Rory would be her minder. Rory would be by her side at school, helping her to cope throughout the day and giving her independence and reassurance. When she was angry after a seizure, Corrine could cuddle Rory, who was woolly like a sheep. The arrival of the seizure alert dog was going to change her life, as well as that of the entire family. My only criticism of the film was that it needs a follow up to see how her life has changed with Rory in it, as it ended with the family all being interviewed about their hopes and dreams, I was left wondering if Rory had delivered those dreams to them.