A New York woman is crediting her Yorkshire terrier with saving her life after the pup alerted her to an imminent heart attack.
Dottie Fisher, 78, fell asleep on Aug. 3 while watching the evening news when her dog, Labella, hopped on her lap and began poking her in the chest, USA Today reported.
“She’s always been very close to me, but she’s never done anything like that before,” Fisher told the news station. “Yorkies are very independent. If they want to be held, they’ll be held; if they don’t, they won’t. Yorkies don’t liked to be cuddled so I thought it was funny that she got up on my lap and kept poking me.”
Labella is a hearing-alert dog. She nudges Fisher whenever someone comes to the door or whenever there’s a phone call.
After Labella woke Fisher up from her nap, Fisher said she started feeling a strange pain that traveled from her shoulder down to her arm. She called a nurse helpline and was told she sounded like she was having a coronary thrombosis, a blockage of the blood flow to the heart.
Fisher was advised to go to the hospital immediately.
“I haven’t had history of it. I don’t have high cholesterol or high blood pressure,” Fisher explained. “I walk at least a mile every day.”
Fisher’s neighbor, Shirley Lazoration, drove her to Corning Hospital, in Corning, New York, where doctors confirmed the telephone diagnosis. She was transferred to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, New York, the next day, where she had a procedure to unblock the artery. Fisher was back home by Aug. 5.
Labella and Fisher’s other dog, a poodle named Mercedes, yapped and danced around their owner when she returned. Lazoration watched over both dogs while Fisher was in hospital.
Fisher, who’s bred and trained five international champions with her late husband, Thomas, said she is thankful to Labella for saving her life. She wants others to understand how attuned dogs can be to health issues.
“The medical people thought it was unusual,” Fisher said. “I said, ‘No, it’s not.’ Dogs can sense when one’s owner is not well or when there’s a problem.”
Professor emeritus in behavior medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Katherine Houpt said there is verifiable science behind a dog's ability to sniff out certain illnesses, such as melanomas, prostate cancer and breast cancer. She added that some dogs are trained to detect seizures.
“This could be something similar to that,” Houpt said. “You could possibly even smell different and the dog can be able to sniff that out. They can detect a major change in the person’s physiology — how they breathe, how they move and how they smell. Dogs are constantly sniffing around.”