Tony Brown-Griffin’s Labrador assistance dog, Hetty, makes life possible and enjoyable for her. She suffers from life-threatening seizures and is also blind. This Labrador is the first dog trained as both a seizure detection dog and a guide dog. A service dog trained in two disciplines is no small accomplishment and a first in the field.
Tony was clinically diagnosed with epilepsy in 1995. She suffered up to 12 major attacks and as many as 40 minor attacks a week. She was constantly exhausted and in life-threatening situations. “Once I put my head through a glass shower screen,” she said. “Incredibly I wasn’t injured.” Her injuries included broken ribs, a fractured wrist and multiple bruises. She spent one summer in intensive care due to back-to-back seizure. In her words: “I felt as though my life had stopped at 24”.
Tony and her husband Dan had a border collie named Rupert who would naturally alert Tony to a coming seizure moments before it happened, but the alerts weren’t regular enough. But this inspired Tony and her husband to see if Rupert could be trained. Once Rupert was trained Tony’s life changed dramatically for the better.
As if life was not bad enough, six years ago Tony became blind. When her seizure dog, Ajay, retired she knew she needed a dog that could assist with both disabilities.
Tony worked with Hetty, she knew instantly that this was the dog for her. We just clicked,” she said.
Hetty is always by Tony’s side and allows her to do the things she loves. “I go horse riding again thanks to her, and I take the girls swimming, too,” said Tony. “If Hetty starts wailing I’ll go over to be checked and then if I’m Ok, I can carry on.” With Hetty’s help, her daughters no longer have to witness her seizures. This is a great relief for Tony. “I’ve seen what it’s like for an adult to have a seizure and it’s not nice, so for them it would be terrifying.”
This Labrador continues to impress Tony and everyone she meets. Hetty’s impressive skills are being honored by the British Animal Honours 2013. “Hetty’s my best friend and savior in the form of a black ball of fluff,” says Tony. “It’s lovely she’s being recognized, she’s a superdog.”
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