Kamloops resident John Ronald can tell you that dogs truly are man's best friend - especially when the dog is specially trained to save your life.
Ronald, who suffers from epilepsy, is the latest recipient of a dog guide that helps him during seizures after his wife suggested that he apply for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program.
Ronald's eyesight was also severely compromised at the age of 14 while watching a baseball game between the Montreal Expos and the Chicago Cubs. During the game he was hit in the head by an errant ball flying into the stands at more than 100 km/h.
Now Ava, an affectionate yellow Labrador retriever who was matched with the 56-year-old's personality and habits, is trained to keep him safe while out on his frequent walks and when he has a seizure.
She will bark for help at the onset of Ronald's seizures to alert his family and can even press an alert button to notify emergency personnel if he is alone.
"Now that I have her, I'm not as concerned about my personal safety because I know she's right there to help," said Ronald.
The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides provided the opportunity after an exhaustive process that had personnel visit Ronald and his family in Kamloops to interview them.
Ava was chosen specifically for John by head seizure response dog guide trainer Gloria Peckham.
They then flew Ronald to Oakville, Ont., to be trained over a number of weeks on handling Ava.
"I'm amazed at how accurate the Lions Foundation was at matching me with Ava," said Ronald. "Our personalities are so similar."
Ava returned home with Ronald in early December and said he knows it will take a little time to adjust.
"I guess it's like a marriage," he said. "You think you know the person, but it takes a while to know the person."
Lions Foundation of Canada also trains dog guides for people who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, people who have physical disabilities, children with autism spectrum disorder, and people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness.
It costs $25,000 to train and place each dog guide, but they are all provided at no cost to Canadians with disabilities.
For more information, go to www.dogguides.com.
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