A disabled man with a rare condition can now prevent his devastating seizures – thanks to his doting dog which senses danger and fetches his medicine.
Duncan DeLooze, 51, suffers from something called hemiplegic migraine, which mimics a stroke with temporary paralysis on one side and can cause seizures.
Due to his illness last year Duncan was matched up with a black Labrador assistance dog called Gibson, who is highly trained to help vulnerable people in everyday life.
Their bond is so close now that two-year-old Gibson can sense when his owner is going to have a seizure, by recognising changes in behaviour which suggest he is in pain.
When the pooch notices these changes he runs off to fetch Duncan’s medicine bag so that he can take medicine to prevent the seizure before it takes hold.
Duncan, who’s from Wells, Somerset, said: “Quite often before I’ve even said the words ‘fetch my meds’ Gibson’s half way there already.
“I then encourage him by telling him to ‘fetch meds bag’ and he’s back in a flash with it.
“The earlier I get my meds the better, as this can stop the hemiplegic migraine from happening.
“Gibson’s got my medication dozens of time to prevent me having an attack.”
Duncan has suffered with chronic pain for most of his life, in part due to numerous health issues he battled as a teen, and now uses a wheelchair and crutches to help him get about.
To make matter worse a bad fall 15 years ago from over ten feet high caused chronic nerve damage to his groin and legs and exacerbated pre-existing back problems.
As well as hemiplegic migraine Duncan also has fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
The migraines he suffers can cause up to 25 seizures a month which leave him unable to speak or swallow and paralysed for a few hours to a couple of days.
In rare cases these attacks can be life threatening if his tongue is affected.
Duncan also has arthritis and PTSD after experiencing a childhood trauma and struggles with depression.
The idea to get a pet came to Duncan when he saw a news item on TV about a charity called Dogs for Good, which trains canines to help people with disabilities.
Every assistance dog is specially trained to help with practical tasks that many people find difficult or impossible to do, such as opening and closing doors and helping with dressing and undressing.
Some can even retrieving items such as mobile telephones, empty the washing machine and pressing a pedestrian crossing button.
Duncan applied to Dogs for Good for an assistance dog and a year later he was matched with Gibson. They hit it off immediately and quickly formed a very strong bond.
Duncan said: “Gibson has an incredible amount of empathy for me, he makes my life calmer and more bearable.
“It’s amazing how just the act of being with him, cuddling and stroking him, can reduce my pain levels.
“At the beginning I was only thinking of having a dog to help me with my physical needs but he helps just as much mentally.
“I’ve gone from existing to living.”
Jane Pawling, a Dogs for Good instructor, said: “Gibson is a clever boy who loves to help.
“He remembers that he got a food reward for fetching Duncan’s meds bag the last time so he continues to do it because he knows he will be rewarded with lots of fuss and a bit of kibble from his daily food allowance
“He fetches Duncan’s medicine bag much faster than Duncan could himself and this reduces the impact of the migraine.”
Anyone who would like to know more about Dogs For Good should visit www.dogsforgood.org.