Service dog changes disabled owner’s life by alerting her when she is close to fainting

Service dog changes disabled owner’s life by alerting her when she is close to fainting

06/22/2021

Billy Connolly plays harmonica for his dogs

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Ramona, a three-year-old shepherd-husky mix, is so tuned into her disabled owner’s rare condition that she is able to assist her when she is close to losing consciousness. Darbi Mulkey, her owner, suffers from a heart rate blood pressure problem, which can result in her becoming overstimulated and fainting.

Ms Mulkey, who works as a graphic designer, said: “One of the symptoms of my disability is that if my body goes into fight or flight too quickly or too severely, I’ll pass out.

“I had a lot of physical things going on that were a result of my mental health issues, because that’s what happens when you don’t get your mental health issues dealt with.”

Following a therapist’s recommendation to get an emotional support dog, Ms Mulkey adopted Ramona in 2017.

She added: “Ramona naturally alerts me to my heart rate.

“She started picking up on something that my body is doing a good 15 minutes before I would get to the point of fight or flight hitting me like a freight train.

“I tracked it for about six months using an Apple Watch before I was like ‘okay, this is what she’s doing.’”

Ramona’s trainer thinks that the pooch is picking up on her owner’s blood pressure, though no one is certain of whether or not though is the case.

Ms Mulkey said: “The general consensus among the service dog community, reputable trainers and programs is that it can’t be trained.

“It’s something that either dogs pick up on or they don’t and since it can’t be trained, we don’t know what they’re picking up on exactly.”

When Ramona thinks Ms Mulkey is close to passing out, she alerts her by nudging her with her nose.

Ms Mulkey added: “If I don’t listen to that she’ll paw at me.

“If I completely refuse to listen, she’ll refuse to move.”

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Ramona is so in sync with her owner that once she begins alerting her, she does not stop until Ms Mulkey takes the required medicine to lower her heart rate and stop her passing out.

Ms Mulkey, who is from Metairie, Louisiana, said: ”Generally, Ramona won’t stop alerting until my heart rate goes down, usually because I took my meds.

“Very rarely one dose won’t work and I’ll have to take a second, and in that case, she’ll just keep alerting.”

Ms Mulkey explained the biggest gift Ramona has given her is her independence back.

She added: “I couldn’t go to anything because I’d get overwhelmed and pass out.

“But in February 2020, I went to a New Orleans Pelicans game, and I hadn’t been since they were the Hornets.

“It wasn’t something I could do, and Ramona has allowed me to.”

Prior to having the life changing dog, Ms Mulkey could not even go to the extra-curricular activities of her younger siblings because she was so afraid of fainting at them.

She said: “But when Ramona finished her training, I went to every single thing I could, and I didn’t have a single issue; no passing out.

“I had conversations with them after the fact and I didn’t know how much me not being able to attend their events was affecting them.

“My sister is trying out for LSU’s band next year and I will have my butt at LSU games, which are exceedingly overwhelming, but I can do it now.

“Ramona’s changed my life and changed my family’s life as well.”

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