Seizure alert dogs are life-saving for Doncaster woman

Ann Watson from Doncaster with her epilepsy seizure alert dog Barney
Ann Watson from Doncaster with her epilepsy seizure alert dog Barney

Seizure-alert dogs have been literary life-saving for a Doncaster woman who says her life has been transformed by her four-legged friends.

Support Dogs often refers to its assistance dogs as ‘life-transforming’ but for Ann Watson her three epilepsy seizure alert dogs have been just that.

Prior to getting an assistance dog, Ann, now 60, had numerous seizures every day.

She often fell down the stairs or fell and banged her head on the radiator, and on one occasion when crossing the road to catch a bus she had a seizure and collapsed in the middle of the road, causing a multi-car pile-up. From that day on she was terrified of leaving the house alone.

Life is now very different and Ann says she owes her life to her three seizure alert dogs provided and trained by Support Dogs over the past 20-odd year. First Shadow, a border collie originally from a rescue centre, Victor a black Labrador stray taken in by council dog wardens before being passed on to  the charity, and now Barney, another black Labrador.

Ann said: “I would not be here without Shadow – he saved me many times from falling down the stairs. Since I’ve had my three dogs I have never been hurt or had an injury. That’s why Support Dogs mean so much to me. They actually have saved my life. I don’t know what I’d be without them.”

Ann fell and banged her head while out playing at the age of seven, and went on to develop severe epilepsy. As she grew up her problems got worse and she struggled to stay in employment. She kept it secret form her husband Peter when she first met him, but soon had to explain to him what was wrong with her.

It was her husband who saw a TV programmer about Support Dogs and suggested applying for a seizure alert dog. The result was a long and successful partnership with Shadow as the numbers of seizures reduced and her nerves and stress levels became manageable.

Shadow was eventually replaced by Victor and so on to Barney. Ann said: “I missed Victor very much but again, Barney is completely different. He is like no other dog I have known and give gives me a 21 minute alert of an oncoming seizure. I can get out and about, jump on the bus and go into town; I’m not worried about going out on my own with Barney. He has never been wrong.”

Ann still gets anxious and has panic attacks when she’s with large numbers of people, but is reassured that for the next eight or nine years she and Barney will be an effective partnership. “It’s not just the alert itself; it’s the emotional confidence knowing that you are going to be alerted that makes the difference, she says. “It’s hard to describe the feeling that having one of these dogs gives you.” For more on assistance dogs visit www.supportdogs.org.uk website.