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Amazing Dog Trained to Wake Narcoleptic Owner

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When we think of service dogs, we usually think of assistance for the visually impaired. Dogs being highly adaptable creatures, some trainers have taken to developing them to be helpful in very specialized ways. Within the past year, a woman suffering from severe narcolepsy had her life turned around by a dog trained to wake her from her sleep attacks.

Idefix, a five-year-old mixed-breed dog is trained to wake his narcoleptic owner, Annick, by nipping her ankles or ears.

The 35 year old Belgian woman, named Annick, had been debilitated by her condition for several years until a creative doctor came up with the innovative canine solution. According to Dr. Olivier Le Bon of Tivoli Hospital in La Louvière who proposed the idea, “Annick couldn’t do simple routine tasks such as ironing or cooking because it was too dangerous if she fell asleep.” She had to rely on parental supervision throughout her daily life and would be unable to have much semblance of independence without a way to be consistently wakened from her narcoleptic episodes.

Several animal charities declined taking on the project until one under the name ‘Coeur a Coeur’ accepted. The charity specializes in training dogs to assist the hearing impaired, selecting dogs that respond more to sound. Though the first dog candidate did not work out due to a tendency to chase after trams out in public, the successor progressed well through the training. Idefix, a five year old mixed-breed dog, first learned to wake Annick when her alarm clock went off in the morning. Then, he was trained to wake her at the sound of her phone ringing or a beeping timer. Last, he learned to wake her in public when she would fall asleep while waiting for public transportation or while aboard the vehicle.

The assistance provided by Idefix led Annick to state, “I had been handicapped by my condition for many years and now I feel like I have been given a second life.”

Though this is the first case in which a dog was successfully used in treating a sleep disorder, other patients are interested in the approach and Coeur a Coeur is prepared to provide the dog training. Dr. Le Bon hopes his idea will lead to similar results for others who suffer narcolepsy.

More than ever, it is easy to argue that dogs are “man’s best friend.” They seem to be fulfilled by helping us in ever more surprising ways. Whatever may be said about dogs, it is certainly endearing to see them ever more entwined with the well-being of our species.

The article above was written for The Dogington Post by guest writer, Adam Holmes. Adam is a nature enthusiast and dog lover who enjoys communicating his passion through the written word. When he is not training or playing with his dogs, he freelances for Havahart Wireless, which specializes in progressive and humane wireless dog fences. To learn more abovt Havahart Wireless Dog Fences, visit www.HavahartWireless.com, or find them on Facebook by clicking here.

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  3. I think it is you that has no common sense. These amazing war dogs are so highly focused and so devoted to their task that they “charge in” sometimes at their own peril, disregarding “common sense” as they are trained to do.

  4. Avatar Of Robin Eller

    Robin Eller


    This actually isn’t the 1st time a service dog has been used with a person with Narcolepsy. I have Narcolepsy and I trained my service dog to lay beside me when I have a cataplexy attack, to go back and forth between me and the stove nudging me then walk back to the stove if I leave it on, and to nudge me to get up and answer a door or phone. I got her at 4 weeks of age and she is over 7 years old now. She defiantly took away my fear of my living alone and not being dependent on other people for every thing.

  5. I found this article interesting as my husband has suffered from Narcolepsy/Cataplexy after being correctly diagnosed in 2004. We have two Maltese. The oldest one is 11 years old and Isabella learned from the onset whenever he was beginning to experience a narcoleptic episode. My husbands episodes are difficult to treat due to other health issues, one of which is severe malapbsorption whereas he only retains 10-15% of anything he ingests including and not limited to prescribed Rx. His episodes can occur several times a day and their duration can be from 20 minutes to several hours. Isabella would come to me, bark, run towards the door until I would follow her to where she would lead me to him. While experiencing an episode, once I am alerted sh e will not leave his side until he emerges. We have another Maltese, Gabby who is 4 years old. She has also has learned to recognize when my husband is experiencing a Narcoleptic/Cataplectic episode. Now that Isabella is getting older, it is Gabby that will come and get me to alert me of the situation. She is a bit more aggressive than Isabella, as she will jump on his lap. lick his face, use her paws to rouse him and if that doesn’t work, she will come find me, while Isabella stays by his side.Since my husband can not be left alone, they have become reliable service dogs as well as his loving companions. We have letters from my husbands doctor indicating they are indeed service animals and can accompany us wherever we go. Animals can be very sensitive topeople and/or situations. Maltese dogs are very smart, even tempered and learn quickly. My husbands doctor stated because they are living in a calm, loving environment they have acclimated to my husbands situation and somehow understand he is in trouble. Dogs of various breeds are being used in a variety of medical situations and I think they should be recognized for the abilities and sensitivies they can acquire when exposed to particular situations. We are blessed to have had their assistance in dealing with this troublesome neurological disorder, that is often misdiagnosed and/or mistreated.

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