Missy, a 14-year-old terrier, was rescued by the Blanchard family in 1996. She’d been in a shelter in Thunder Bay, Ontario for over two weeks and was scheduled to be put down that very afternoon. Originally adopted as a family pet, Missy started showing signs of being able to predict the Blanchard’s daughter Stephanie’s re-occurring panic attacks. Her ability to predict the attacks led doctors to diagnose the panic attacks as a medical condition, and they encouraged the Blanchard’s to have Missy trained as a Medical Alert Service Dog. Missy then underwent an intense one-year training program that included behaviour and socialization classes, as well as appropriate alerting and responding techniques. Stephanie’s panic attacks have escalated, and she has since been diagnosed with epilepsy. Missy can detect Stephanie’s seizures up to 15 minutes in advance, allowing her a chance to get to a safe place. If Stephanie does have a seizure in public, it is Missy’s job to keep her safe from harm, and she is trained to lie on top of Stephanie, and allow only uniformed officers near for Stephanie’s protection.
Missy has also gone above and beyond her calling as a service animal. One evening in 2004, when Stephanie was living in Terrace Bay, Ontario she went to visit her friend Laura for dinner and a movie. When they were leaving to spend the night at Laura’s dad’s house, Missy – who normally won’t go anywhere without Stephanie – would not leave the house. This was incredibly strange behaviour, but nothing could change Missy’s mind, so eventually they decided to let Missy stay with Laura’s mom, Barb Langley, overnight. Later that night, Laura’s dad got a call from Barb. She sounded like she was talking in her sleep. He was about to hang up when he heard Missy barking frantically in the background. This was completely out of the ordinary, as Missy is an extremely well trained dog, and doesn’t bark unless something is wrong. Laura’s dad decided to double check that everything was okay and went over to Barb’s house. When he arrived he found that Barb had suffered a stroke, and was unable to speak or move the left side of her body. He called an ambulance, and thanks to Missy insisting on staying with Barb, she was able to receive medical treatment within the “Golden Hour” – the sixty minute window in which a person who has sustained major trauma has the best odds of making a full recovery if they receive proper medical treatment.
Barb and her family are absolutely indebted to Missy. If it weren’t for Missy, Barb may have suffered permanent damage or even worse, as she was unable to call for help. Thanks to Missy’s sixth sense and determination, Barb is now living out her dream of travelling the world.
Fourteen-year-old Missy still works with Stephanie and is her hero each and every day. Her experience with Missy has inspired Stephanie to become a professional dog trainer and instructor, and even though her home is now in Hamilton Ontario, she regularly returns to Terrace Bay to provide training services.