Sarah Ford | April 1, 2015

Canine partners provide life-saving companionship

By Kendall Vrana

Canine Partners for Life Administrative Assistant Caitlin Case knows first-hand just how important companion alert dogs can be. Born with a chronic heart condition that causes her blood pressure to suddenly drop, Case can unexpectedly lose consciousness, putting her at risk when she is out on her own. Nearly two years ago, she was united with Forest, a smooth coat collie trained by CPL to alert her to dangerous drops in her blood pressure.

“Before I got him, I quit my job, dropped out of school, and wouldn’t go anywhere by myself,” said Case, who said that her four-legged partner makes her feel “secure”. Case, like many that suffer from physical disabilities, was given a second chance at independence with her service canine. Now, she is back in school and married, and has even had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall, with Forest by her side.

As dogs have a natural ability to pick up on things such as seizures and drops in blood pressure up to an hour before a crisis, properly-trained alert dogs are an invaluable tool to those suffering from medical, physical or emotional disabilities. Diabetes alert dogs are scent trained with a sample of their to-be companion’s saliva, and can alert to drops or spikes in blood pressure well before the individual is aware. Some dogs provide physical support, helping an individual walk or retrieve items, while others provide emotional support.

Not just any pup can be a service dog, however. 

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