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Sunday, November 20, 2005

DOGGIE TAILS #12 - Meet Doctor Dog.

Now and again, along comes a fantastic story of yet another trusted canine coming to the help of his best friend. This is such a story from Sydney, Australia. Enjoy...

A REMARKABLE dog has been trained to save the life of a Sydney teenager who risks dying in her sleep every night.When 13-year-old Brooke Kelly goes to bed, she puts her trust in a scruffy terrier called Neville to ensure she wakes up each morning. Brooke suffers from an extremely rare condition in which she sometimes stops breathing while she is asleep.

Neville sits by the side of the bed watching over his charge and barks to raise the alarm if Brooke's breathing suddenly ceases. He is one of only two dogs in the world and the first in Australia trained to be such a lifeline.

"I've always wanted a dog and Neville could save my life. We are training him so he knows what means danger," Brooke told The Sunday Telegraph. Brooke suffers from congenital central hypoventilation syndrome – a genetic condition that occurs in one in 300,000 births and affects the instinctive control of breathing during sleep.

"If Brooke stops breathing when she is asleep her trigger doesn't kick in to wake her up," her mother Letitia Kelly explains.
Brooke was diagnosed at birth at Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick and returned there last week to have her nocturnal oxygen levels monitored.

"Babies can die without treatment and diagnosis," Sleep Medicine Unit director Dr Arthur Teng said. "There is no medicine for this yet and this is a lifelong condition."

Until now, thousands of dollars have been spent on carers to stay with Brooke during the evening. She is looking forward to falling asleep without another person watching her for the first time in her life. "I'm looking forward to having some space and just being by myself," she said.

A cross west highland/scottish terrier, Neville is 18 months old and knows that when his owner slips on his yellow jacket he is in charge of her welfare.

Alex Van Oeveren, founder of Disability Aid Dogs, helped train both Brooke and Neville and said the little terrier is special. "You can't make mistakes in this area. If the dog doesn't perform at the right time it could cost Brooke her life," he said.

After just six weeks of training, Neville is already in tune with Brooke's rhythms and, while even the most diligent human carers have been known to fall asleep, Neville always has one ear cocked for the sound of his owner's breathing.

"He is a shift worker," Mrs Kelly said. "He sleeps while Brooke is at school and at night he can still nap – it's like a mother who always has an ear out for her small child."

Brooke used a tracheotomy to help her breathe until the age of 10. Once it was removed, she could go to school without her peers knowing about her condition.

Neville was the perfect sleep companion, Brooke said. "His size is perfect, too, because he can sleep on the bed with me."

WOW! What a story!

Be encouraged!

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