Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Man's Best Friend...

Buddy and Mr. Stalnaker

Buddy the phone dog saves his owner - for the third time
(from Times Online News Services)

It was a call the emergency operator never expected to receive. Instead of tears, screams or a plea for help, she could hear only barking and a distinctly canine whimper. Anywhere else and the emergency services might have hung up, blaming a prankster. But the specially-trained German shepherd dog Buddy had already saved his master three times by making emergency calls to police with his teeth.
Police in Scottsdale, Arizona, released a recording yesterday of the latest call by 18-month-old Buddy when his owner suffered a seizure. “Hello, this is 911. Hello . . . Can you hear me? Is there somebody there you can give the phone to?” the emergency worker asks. Buddy responds by barking and whimpering, but the operator stays on the line because any call from his owner, Joe Stalnaker, brings up an alert on the emergency computer system to say that a trained assistance dog may call when his master is incapacitated.
Chris Trott, the emergency despatcher who took the latest call, said that it was the first time in her five years in the job that she had received an emergency call from a dog.
“It was interesting. The entire room was amazed. There are dispatchers who have been there quite some time – 20 years – and never had a call from a dog before,” she said.
After the paramedics arrived, Buddy rode in the ambulance with his owner to hospital.
Officer Dave Pubins, a police spokesman, said that the call on September 10 was the third time the specially trained dog had summoned help.
“There were two other occurrences when the dog had done this. It was the same thing before. They heard the dog in the background,” he said.
Mr Stalnaker is prone to potentially fatal seizures after suffering a brain injury while serving in the US military a decade ago. He adopted Buddy at the age of 8 weeks from a Michigan-based group called Paws With A Cause, which trains so-called “service dogs” to help humans.
Mr Stalnaker trained Buddy to pick up the telephone and bring it to him whenever he falls. All the buttons are programmed to call the emergency operator.
He said: “He doesn’t actually sit there and dial 911, but whenever he picks up the phone, one of his teeth inevitably hits the number, and if it’s held down for more than three seconds, it dials the police department.”
Without Buddy he would be forced to live in a home because of his disability. “He knows what to do. He’s looking after me,” Mr Stalnaker said.
Buddy is not the first “service dog” to call the emergency operator for help. Leana Beasley’s four-year-old rottweiler, Faith, made an emergency call by pressing a speed-dial button with her nose and barking urgently when her epileptic owner fell out of her wheelchair and hit her head on a kitchen cabinet at her home in Washington state in 2004.
“I sensed there was a problem on the other end of the 911 call,” said Jenny Buchanan, who took the call. “The dog was too persistent in barking directly into the phone receiver. I knew she was trying to tell me something.”

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