BLISSFIELD, NEW BRUNSWICK
Since being welcomed into the Gilks family in April 2010, Bree, an adorable two-year-old Dachshund, has certainly gone above and beyond the role of the family dog by saving the life of her owner, Michele Gilks, on several occasions.
Over the past two years, Bree has periodically woken Michele up from sleep in the middle of the night, by any means possible. From sticking her snout into Michele’s mouth to licking her face, Bree would actively rouse Michele from her sleep any way she knew how. Once Michele awoke due to this commotion, Bree wasn’t interested in going outside or playing – she seemed satisfied that Michele was awake. Although puzzled by this bizarre behavior by her pet, Michele would often laugh off these rude awakenings, assuming it was harmless. Bree seemed very tired during the day, despite her young age, likely as a result of a lack of sleep. While their veterinarian assured the family that Bree was in excellent health, all were baffled by her strange, sporadic nighttime actions and behaviour.
Then one night in September 2011, three days before Michele’s 50th birthday, Bree’s odd behaviour reached its peak. Bree stopped at nothing that night to wake Michele – frantically digging her paws next to Michele, sticking her snout in Michele’s mouth, licking her face and even standing on Michele’s chest. This time, however, Michele was really slow to wake up. Michele realized that she had completely lost her breath, and began gasping desperately for air. An overwhelming drowning feeling came over Michele as she struggled to breathe. Bree’s antics also awoke Michele’s husband, who immediately called an ambulance. When paramedics arrived, Michele was put on oxygen and rushed to hospital, due to her dangerously high blood pressure and fast heart-rate. In the emergency room, the medical team diagnosed Michele with a severe case of sleep apnea – a potentially life-threatening condition that causes a person to stop breathing during sleep.
The doctor explained that Michele had likely lived with this condition for several years, but sleep apnea tends to worsen and gain severity with age. In this case, he explained that Michele could have easily died in her sleep from lack of oxygen had she not been woken up when she was. Suddenly, Bree’s behavior made complete sense: each time Bree sensed a change in Michele’s breathing, she would wake her up, saving her from a potentially fatal episode of sleep apnea.
Today, Michele is receiving treatment for her sleep apnea, and Bree no longer wakes her during the night. As a result, both Michele and Bree feel healthier, rested and more energetic during the day. Because of Bree’s devotion and quick-thinking, Michele feels as though she has another chance at life, and she’s eternally grateful to Bree for giving her that chance.