FLORA & KIN
Medical alert dogs who can sense when their owner is about to black out, allowing him to lead a normal life again.
For 12 years Robert Stuhldreer, from North London, had suffered from blackouts that his doctors couldn’t explain even though they put his life at risk.
He was too scared to go outside and felt suicidal, as he could lose consciousness at any time. Robert was finally diagnosed with cardiac syncope, a heart condition that causes him to blackout but also atonal epilepsy which causes seizures.
Within weeks of Akita Flora coming to live with Robert as a puppy, his life was transformed. Robert, now 61, was once again able to venture out as Flora was able to warn him when an attack was about to happen.
The canine, who was then the only Akita qualified and working as a medical alert dog, blocks Robert’s path when she senses he is about to collapse. She will gently take his hand in her mouth and pull downwards, indicating he should lie down. One time, Flora managed to open the flat door and get the help of neighbours. In the hospital Flora sensed her owner was becoming increasingly unwell during the wait and barked to get the medics’ attention.
The partnership was such a success that Robert decided to get another Akita to keep Flora company. Kin, a Japanese Akita Inu, joined them two years later, and the pair became fast friends. Sadly, Flora died suddenly earlier this year, days short of her 9th birthday. Since then Kin, now 7, has stepped up and taken on the baton, and can do everything that Flora did.
Robert can lose consciousness at any time — for example while crossing a busy road — making almost any situation dangerous. “Having that warning gives me a few moments to get to safety, whether I’m at the edge of a road, in a park or walking by a river bank,” says Robert. “Flora and Kin gave me my life back.”