Category Archives: Service

Yolanda – Hero Twice – no, make that Thrice

Golden lab service dog Yolanda and her master Maria Colon help take care of each other. Maria is in her 60’s and  has been blind  for the last 23 years. Yolanda connects her to the outside world.

Early Thursday morning, Maria awoke from her sleep because of the smell of smoke. She gave her dog, Yolanda, the code word “Danger” and Yolanda called the police on a special phone she had learned to use. She then guided Maria downstairs and safely out of the house before police arrived.

Both Yolanda and Maria were hospitalized for smoke inhalation, and Yolanda also suffered an injury to her cornea.

But, this wasn’t the first time Yolanda has helped her owner. Last year, Maria fell in the house and was knocked unconscious. Yolanda, on her own, dialed the police who came and took care of Maria.

As they say in the commercials “But wait –  there’s more”. In the previous year, 2013, while her owner was sleeping upstairs, Yolanda heard men inside the house talking downstairs. Yolanda started growling, closed the bedroom door, went downstairs and bravely chased the men away. As they were leaving, one of the men turned on the stove’s gas.

When Yolanda’s owner came down to find out what all the  barking and noise was about, she smelled the gas and called the police. Turns out they were on the way – Yolanda had already called them.

She’s definitely  a keeper.


Source: The Daily Mail

Amazing Roselle – Hero Guide Dog

Roselle – Hero Guide Dog

Michael Higson was reuinted with Roselle, a female yellow Lab at the start of 2001 when he was 50. She had been trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind. As he got to know her, Michael’s appreciation for Roselle grew. When she was “off duty” she had a pixie sense of humor, and liked to
steal Mike’s socks. But when she was working, she’d throw a
switch and she would be all focused in her work.

They became a team. Michael would direct her and she would
safely guide him. Michael would take her to work every day. She would guide him to his office building, walk him to the elevators. Mike would feel the braile bumps to select the correct floor, and up they’d go. When they got to his desk, she would lay down and wait patiently at his side until he needed her.

Nine months later, on an early weekday morning, Michael
couldn’t see what happened, but from the shaking of the
building that he felt and the explosion that he heard, he knew
something major had happened. Then he smelled a strong gasoline odor.

As an ex-California resident familiar with earthquakes, he
only knew that the rocking office tower “was in terrible trouble”.
Mike talked to David and Frank, the two people in his office
who had already arrived, and told them to “get out of there”
and to take the stairs “because he believed the elevators
surely wouldn’t be working”. He still had no idea what had

He called his wife to tell her that there had been and
explosion in his building and that he would be home as soon as
he could. He grabbed Roselle’s harness to tell her that it was time to
work, but Roselle already sensed this. While Frank described to
Mike how flaming debris was falling outside the windows,
Roselle led Mike “through the disheveled office and,
eventually, to the stairwell.” “The crowds weren’t huge at
first…but as we started making our way down, they got
bigger.” The temperature in the stairwell started climbing
above 90 degrees. He was sweating and Roselle was panting.

The smell of gasoline got stronger when they were a third of the way down.  Soon he felt people bumping into him and Roselle, but
they were going the wrong way – they were heading up. “I heard
applause and was told they were firefighters…I clapped a few
on the back, but I was scared for where they were going.”

The temperature in the stairwell kept rising as people opened
the stairwell doors to enter. Mike “wasn’t sure he would be
all-right. The stairs were thick with people clambering down –
not stampeding, but moving quickly.” And he was increasingly concerned about Roselle who was was feeling the heat and panting heavily, her throat also  irritated by the gasoline fumes. No air was circulating in the stairwell, All the way down, his co-worker Frank had stayed with Mike and Roselle. It took them 50 minutes to
descend the 1,463 stairs to the lobby. In the Lobby, there was water on the floor from broken pipes. Roselle stopped to drink it to cool herself and get relief for her enflamed throat. It took another 10 minutes to get out of the building and onto the street.

The plan was for Frank was to get his car and drive them away, but that suddenly changed. Mike heard a crumbling roar above and behind him. “It sounded like a metal and concrete waterfall. We
started running for the subway”. Around them were shrieks of
terror but Roselle focused on her task. Mike kept his instructions to her simple – right, left – and a police officer steered them to the subway.

When they emerged,Mike was told that the North Tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed and the top of the South Tower was on fire. “It was unbelievable,” Mike said, “I felt lucky to be out of there. But I wondered about the fire fighters” who had climbed up past him in the South Tower. Twenty minutes later, the South Tower collapsed sending a fast moving, blinding cloud of “ash, glass and debris” towards them. A woman who was near them couldn’t see with this stuff in her eyes, so Roselle and her blind owner helped her get to safety. Everyone and everything was covered with this soot. “If Mike could have seen her, Roselle had become a gray Labrador.

Since no trains were running that day, Michael and Roselle
stayed at a friends’ house in Manhattan. He was able to return
home the next day to his wife and emailed all those people who were
concerned and were waiting to hear from him. Two of these
friends who saw the television reports were Kay and Ted Stern who had met him and his new puppy Roselle back in 1998. Kay and Ted helped train Roselle to be a Guide Dog. Mike also contacted the San Rafael based Guide Dogs for the Blind who supplies Guide Dogs for blind people around the country to let them know that he and Roselle were safe. Their spokes-person said that Roselle was the first puppy the Sterns raised to be a service dog. “The Sterns for their part, said that Mike and Roselle’s story inspired them to continue working with service dog. ‘We’re training our fourth dog now… but Michael’s story sure gives us a lot of validation.”

You can read the full story in Michael Higson’s book Thunder Dog.


Dakota – Living Health Monitor

Sarah Forgany, KHOU TV, San Antonio, May 2012

At the tender age of 17 months, Ben Ownby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes which can become deadly, so, it has to be monitored hourly. It is important if the sugar is either too low or too high. Ben had to receive seven or eight shots of insulin a day to survive, and he still had seizures.

As Ben was growing up, a cute brown Labridoodle named Dakota, was being trained as a guide dog by the Guide Dogs of Texas in San Antonio. He didn’t, however, pass the demanding final requirements, but with his good scenting ability, personality and temperment, Dakota was retrained for months to detect glucose levels and became a scenting, diabetes alert dog. Dogs have over 200 million scent receptors in their noses compared to a human’s five million. “When blood sugars begin to fluctuate, the human body releases chemicals that change the body’s smell”. It’s unnoticeable to the human nose, but to a trained dog, “it’s an alarm.”

Dakota became Ben’s dog three years ago. They’ve been inseparable since then.  “He can tell my blood sugar by the scent of my breath”. If the blood sugar is too low, Dakota will jump up on Ben. If it’s too high, he’ll nibble on Ben’s wrist band to signal that Ben needs to use a traditional machine to measure his blood sugar levels.

Ben woke up in the middle of the night and found Dakota standing on him and looking down at him. Ben got up and tested his blood levels and found it was low. “He’s usually very accurate.”
Dogs “can actually detect a rise or a fall up to an hour before you know it or your meter would catch it” said Cherry Campbell, with non-profit Warren Retrievers in Virginia.

Dakota even helps Ben’s classmate. “He’s come next to me to signal that I need to check my blood sugar” said a class member. “I have been low.”

Ben’s father, Bob, said that “it was love at first sight.” Dakota helps us with the “safety of our son” and provides us “a sense of security”.

“There’s an undeniable love and bond between Ben and Dakota – a friend and a partner, who may one day save Ben’s life”