My dog smells when I'm about to collapse, my heart condition could kill me & he's given my life back | The Sun

IN the middle of a dance class full of my young pupils, my dog Bear fixes me with a stare and starts to huff.

He jumps up at me and I realise what’s happening.

My heart rate is about to soar and I’m at risk of passing out – it’s something Bear is trained to recognise.

He knows before I even have an inkling.

I lie down on the floor and wait for an episode to come, while Bear rests his head on my chest and looks into my eyes.

After it passes, he pads across to my special bag and returns carrying my sodium tablets. Within minutes, I’m back on my feet.


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When humans are about to have an episode like mine, the scent of our sweat changes slightly and the Medical Detection Dogs charity has trained Bear to sense this, using sweat samples I provided. 

My heart problems started when I was 17 and studying for my A levels.

I began suffering from extreme exhaustion, palpitations and chest pains, and tests showed my heart was regularly missing beats.

Since the age of three, dancing had been my life, and suddenly I had to give it up because my heart couldn’t cope. It was horrible – it felt like I was losing everything.

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Tests at West Middlesex University Hospital showed my heart was sending blood backwards, which is why every exertion felt like I’d run a marathon.

Ablation surgery to burn away the blockages in my heart didn’t work, leaving me back at square one.

I somehow got a place at Kingston University to study social work, but I found it too hard to concentrate because I was so exhausted all the time.

The uni’s disability support team helped me a lot, but I still felt like an inconvenience.

A second ablation surgery in 2016 was a partial success, but along with low blood pressure, I had episodes where I’d lose my sight and hearing and then pass out without warning.

It was happening multiple times a day, and I was left with cuts and bruises, an injured back and more hospital visits.

With no medication that could help, it felt like my life was over at 18.

I graduated in 2020 after five years of studying – it was a three-year course, but I needed lots of time out, and I was only able to graduate with a degree in social care, which was disappointing as it doesn’t qualify me to become a social worker.

After uni, I couldn’t stay at home as I wasn’t able to use stairs, so I moved into a specially adapted ground-floor flat.

I was living alone, so if I collapsed I had to deal with it on my own and call my mum.

Unable to work, I was offered the occasional hour teaching at my old principal’s dance studio.

I had to stay seated and couldn’t demonstrate the moves properly, but at least I felt like I had some worth. 

Since I’ve had Bear I haven’t collapsed once

Three years ago, I watched a TV programme about the charity Medical Detection Dogs and I contacted them to see if they could help.

I filled the forms in, then Covid struck, which meant all processes were put on hold. 

Then last autumn, I was invited to the charity’s headquarters in Milton Keynes to meet a possible canine match.

Seeing black labrador Bear, I fell in love. He was almost two years old and so handsome and silly.

We went for a walk and there was an instant bond.

In January, he started scent training – I’d provided sweat samples, which were frozen and sent to Debra, Bear’s trainer, who would reward him when he identified them.

The first time he did it in person, I was so emotional. I met Bear weekly, and in late February he moved in. 

I’d been having up to 20 episodes every day, but since I’ve had Bear I haven’t collapsed once, because he’s given me enough warning to sit or lie down.

Bear is my best friend

He can even sense if I’m about to have an episode when I’m asleep.

He’s by my side all the time, as my condition could kill me.

I have to monitor it and take emergency action when I can’t manage my heart rate – it’s incredibly scary when this happens and Bear can be on constant alert. 

He’s enabled me to start properly teaching dance.

I’ve even opened my own studio in Slough – Flair Academy of Dance – where the kids adore him.

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I’m on my feet, demonstrating moves and he’s always in the background.

Bear is my best friend – he has given me my life back.


There are two types of Medical Detection Dogs: medical alert assistance dogs monitor allergies and conditions such as diabetes, while bio detection dogs can spot malaria and even Covid.

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