‘Seizure alert' dogs are a rare, potentially lifesaving breed
“Seizure alert” and mobility dogs help those with debilitating diseases, say trainer Kim Morgan, of Purcell, and owners in Oklahoma.
PURCELL — Sometimes Deona Boyle will sense an odd smell or taste. Then the “tunnel vision” sets in.
Soon a cascade of misfiring brain cells will engulf her, commandeering her muscles and trapping her in a convulsive prison, sometimes leaving her unconscious.
“I know what's going on but I can't do anything about it,” said Boyle, 43, of Goldsby. “It's like I'm banging on a window, going, ‘No!'
The epileptic seizures she suffered up to three times a day made her dependent on her husband or anyone else who could constantly accompany her wherever she went. Like many seizure sufferers, she also fell into depression.
Until Tigger came along.
At 32 inches tall and 105 pounds, the Great Dane mix is a strong shoulder to lean on, literally. More accurately, the 8-month-old companion naturally leans into Boyle, helping her brace and balance herself.
But he does more than that. Still in the process of learning to be a “seizure alert” service dog, Tigger can sense the onset of Boyle's seizures before they happen.
“He puts his paws on me, nudges me with his nose,” she said. “That's my signal to sit down, wherever I'm at.”
Paying it forward
Tigger is “paying it forward,” Kim Morgan said. He is among numerous dogs the Purcell woman has rescued from shelters and other locations and trained to be seizure alert or mobility service dogs.
“Not every dog can do that,” she said.
Morgan can usually tell which ones can. For some reason, she always could. “I've always been kind of a natural with dogs since I was very, very young.”
In college, she was aiming toward a mechanical engineering degree but said she decided it “wasn't quite for me.” She began working with kennels, groomers and trainers, and after training some dogs for a school for the deaf, she launched her own dog grooming and training business in Colorado.
A few years ago, Morgan moved back to Oklahoma to help her mother, Lou Ann Tucker, 56, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. Morgan launched High Plains Service Dogs and Therapeutic Riding Center. Through the center she formed as a nonprofit organization, Morgan trains rescue animals as alert and mobility dogs to help people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, autism, diabetes, even post-traumatic stress disorder. She also trains rescued horses to work with people who have physical disabilities.