Service dog gets help for owner suffering from seizure
By BRIELLE SCHAEFFER
Jul. 15, 2017
SITKA, Alaska (AP) — Yellow Labrador retriever Thorr is more than his owner Eric Lamount Skousen's best friend. As a trained service dog, Thorr watches out for his master, and recently he showed how well he could do that without prompting.
Skousen has cerebral palsy and has been having numerous seizures since January, he said. He was in Sitka Community Hospital getting treatment for another health problem weeks ago when he suddenly had a seizure and fell unconscious. Thorr immediately went to find help.
"He was on a mission," Skousen said the Sitka Community Hospital nurses told him.
He made a beeline for the nurses' station and found the hospital's senior ward clerk Ryan Huddlestun.
"It was quite amazing," Huddlestun said. "Thorr actually came up and nudged me."
The pooch head-butted her a couple times, she said, which surprised her. When she said his name he darted toward Skousen's room and sat by his bed, waiting for medical attention for his owner.
"She was able to call and get help and take care of my seizure," Skousen said. "Without my dog doing what he did nobody would have known what was happening and things could have gone much worse."
And it's happened again that day, making sure Skousen gets care when he has a seizure, Huddlestun said.
"Without Thorr we wouldn't actually know that Eric needed us in some of those cases," she said. "We are able to assist him faster. We are all well aware if Thorr comes to the nurses' station something is going on with Eric and he needs to be seen immediately."
Originally from Phoenix, Skousen has been in Sitka for 11 years, he said.
Named after the Viking God as a nod to Skousen's heritage, Thorr was trained by Michele Forto at Alaska Dog Works in Willow, Skousen said. He and Thorr have been together for three years.
"I picked him out as a puppy," Skousen said.
As an everyday companion and caregiver, Thorr helps brace his master when he's tying his shoes, and provides support for Skousen when the two are traveling on a plane. The dog has been trained to sense chemical changes indicating Skousen is having a seizure.
"He tries to get me to sit or lay down so I don't bash my head in," he said.
But Thorr was never trained to seek out medical help, as he did that day, Skousen said.
"I'm as proud as I've ever been in my life," he said.