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IBAN NL62INGB0004011891 BIC / SWIFT-Code: INGBNL2A ING Bank-Amsterdam. ActieZwerfhonden Zonnemaire The Netherlands

Gemmy and Verdi

Verdi; My Buddy and Freedom

Copied with the permission of Gemmy and the webmaster of the website of Mayra

My name is Gemmy. I am 33 years old and I live in the southern part of the Dutch province of Limburg. I live with Frank, and since September 2 1998 also with Verdi, my service dog who is with me because I’m an epileptic.

Verdi is a sweet and loyal Labrador who has changed my – and our – lives in many positive ways. Before he came, I could not have imagined the joy of having a service dog in my life, and I can hardly remember what it was like before. Verdi makes me much more independent from the people around me. He gives me a lot of freedom. Thanks to him, the quality of my life has grown enormously. And of course he is a very special pal to me, and to us.

He was trained to be an ADL-Dog (Activities Daily Life) by Service Dog Nederland (or SAM, as it was called back then). Since there was hardly any expertise in Holland about service dogs for epilectics, he has learned this part of his job from us. He learned quickly. He immediately stole my heart.

Thanks to Verdi I can stay at home alone, because he will get help when necessary. I suffer from attacks daily.

These are often short attacks that I come out of, but sometimes I suffer from many attacks in a row. When that happens, I have to be medicated in order to be able to come out of it. And since I am unconscious, I can’t get help myself. Since Verdi is here, he always gets help. He has learned to push a button when I am suffering from an attack. An alarm system makes sure that Frank gets a call when that happens. Lucky for me, this is not necessary every time I am suffering from an attack. That’s why Frank has made an alarm system with a time-delay. This enables me to shut down the alarm when I regain consciousness. This way, Frank only receives a call when it takes too long. In the past every time I wanted to be home alone this involved weighing the risks. That is no longer necessary now. Thanks to Verdi I can stay by myself, because he makes sure Frank gets a call when that’s necessary. Of course this is a great freedom. For Frank and the rest of the people around me this is a great comfort as well.

Following an attack, Verdi comes to me and waits until I regain consciousness. Then he lets it be known that he is with me by drawing attention. Of course he gets his well-deserved reward. Most often I can be by myself again, but also when the attacks are bigger, Verdi offers help. Sometimes greater attacks cause the right half of my body to be paralyzed. That’s why Verdi has learned to grab things, such as a bag that contains my medicines, a mobile phone, etc. He grabs these things when told to do so, but because sometimes I am temporarily unable to speak we have also taught him to fetch these things when given a hand signal. Some other things he is also able to understand without spoken instructions. For example, he helps me up if I am unable to do so by myself. This way he can assist me when I try to sit down on the couch or lie down on the bed, following a greater attack, if need be.

 

Out in the street he is of tremendous help as well. In the past I used to have walking attacks. This means that when you are walking, you keep on walking during an attack for a while, even though you are not aware of any danger because you are not conscious at the moment. Of course, that can be very hazardous for traffic and that sort of thing. That’s why we have taught Verdi to stop at every curb and to cross only when he is told to do so. During a walking attack, it is impossible to give an order, so Verdi stays on the pavement and stops me with his leash when I have an attack and am about to walk on to the street.

When I’m around water, such as a brook or pond, roughly the same thing happens. Because water can be dangerous during an attack like that, Verdi stops the moment we come near water. This way he stops me as well.

Over the past few years, he has prevented me from crossing the street or walking into a brook several times during a walking attack. Because he literally keeps me off the street, thanks to Verdi I can go outside safely again, which gives me a lot of freedom. This way I am not as dependent on other people as before when it comes to going to a shop, or when I am going to a course, club, doctor, or when I am going for a walk to enable Verdi to run in a field somewhere, or whatever. He makes sure I can go places safely and make it home as well.

I am very happy that I am not as dependent on other people as I used to be, and that I can just go outside with Verdi now. Now I can go outside whenever I want to, and this makes me very happy!

After Verdi had been here a while, his help went a huge step farther. He came to anticipate attacks. Now he warns me of them before they occur. It is not clear how that is possible, but it is clear how much that means. It is pretty rare for a dog to be able to do this or sense this. A human being cannot teach this to a dog. You can stimulate it, but there are no guarantees. I don’t feel the attacks coming myself. Others don’t either. As a result, I used to suffer injuries often, among which concussions. Even though the attack does not last very long, the damage used to. But right now I have not fallen down for a long time, and this is all thanks to Verdi. He warns me as soon as I am about to suffer from an attack. That way, I have time to sit or lie down safely. As a result, I no longer fall down. This makes a world of difference.

It used to be a matter of weighing risks before I could do something. Sometimes it worked out, often it did not. That’s different now. When I am cooking now, things don’t go wrong anymore. As soon as Verdi warns me, I shut off the burners and sit down on the ground. Now that Verdi lets me know when an attack is imminent, there is enough time to take precautions. As a result, the consequences of the attacks are not as bad. This way I can go back to what I was doing fairly quickly. In daily life, there are numerous examples I could give of situations that could be risky but that are now safe thanks to Verdi’s warning. If, for example, I am ironing clothes, then I make sure the iron is away from Verdi and myself and I pull the plug out of the socket. When I am cutting vegetables, I put down the knife and make sure I can sit down safely. When I am eating, I stop, so that I won’t choke on my food. And when I am taking a shower I can sit down and perhaps close the faucet. Now I can go up and down the stairs by myself if need be, now that I know that Verdi will warn me. I am not even afraid of standing on a ladder when Verdi is with me, something I would not even dream of before. Now I am very happy this is possible. We have a new house, you see, and a lot of stuff needs fixing. It’s great to be able to contribute my share.

Simple and daily stuff like that has become a lot more matter-of-fact and simple, because now I don’t have to think as much about whether something’s too risky or not. This gives me so much freedom, and I’m so happy about that!

When I’m gone, I always have Verdi fetch my mobile phone. Sometimes he refuses to do so. When that happens, I know enough. In that case I better sit down for a while, because he only refuses to do so when I am about to have an attack. If I delay my departure for a while, so that the attack will take place at home, this makes a world of difference.

I could give you many more examples of instances when Verdi showed how much he’s worth, but I’d like to close off with an example that I thought was very special at the time.

A while ago, I was babysitting the child of some very good friends of mine. This was something I would not dare do if Verdi weren’t here, because of the epilepsy. I’d be way too scared that something would happen to her if I had another attack. To be on the safe side, Frank was working at home that afternoon, but he does not have to sit by my side when Verdi is around. I was giving her the bottle when Verdi warned me that I was going to suffer from an attack. Now there was time enough to stop feeding her, and to put her down safely so that she could not fall to the floor. Furthermore, I had time to call for Frank and to sit down on the ground. A little while later, I suffered the attack. There were no serious consequences, because Verdi had warned me in time. On a moment like that, I realize very well how lucky I’ve been with a service dog by my side, and how much more freedom, safety and quality of life this entails.

Now that Verdi is here, a lot more is possible for me. I have been singing at a choir for several years now. This is something that I would not be very keen to start if Verdi weren’t here. I like it very much, though. Now when I am about to suffer from an attack, I can sit down for a while. This makes a lot of difference. I also volunteer at the local Scouting club. Verdi has often shown his worth during weekly meetings and during camping trips.

When we are on holidays, we prefer to go to the mountains. Thanks to Verdi, even a nice walk in the mountains is possible, because it is much safer now.

Of course, Verdi has become a tremendous pal over the years. I love him to death! Also, I am very grateful for everything he has given me, and because he has enriched our lives so much.

And of course this is not only because he helps out. He is also a very fun dog. Sometimes he is very naughty, and at the same time he is a super sweet comrade.

I hope we will have some great and fun years ahead of us!

Much love,

Gemmy & Verdi