Ken Howard is a Columbus resident and Army Veteran who was involved in an accident that resulted in a brain injury. Now, Ken suffers regular “breakout” seizures. He manages them with medicine, but says they’ll never be fully under control. But Ollie, a black lab he adopted from Columbus Humane, helps Ken live an independent and active life by letting him know when he’s going to have a seizure.
Ken had just lost his first seizure alert dog, a purebred dog that had been trained just for that purpose, and was heartbroken. Even though Ken never thought a shelter dog could be trained in the same way, at the suggestion of a friend, he visited Columbus Humane to see if there were any labs available for adoption.
“When I first walked in, I was in tears. I missed my dog Sammie so much,” Ken recalls. Columbus Humane only had one lab in the back, who was still going through evaluations before he was ready to be adopted. “When Ollie came out, he came right over to me and just looked up at me. I knew he was the one!” Ken says.
Ollie had a lot of energy and was quite the player, so Ken was a little skeptical at first that Ollie could be trained to help him. “Imagine my surprise when that very first day Ollie came home with me, he started alerting me to a seizure! I couldn’t believe it!” Ken remembers.
Ollie had the instincts to help Ken but Ken knew Ollie needed more training to help focus some of his energy. Ken and Ollie went out to Colorado for a 10-day Seizure Alert Training program. Ollie did great! Since he already knew basically what to do, Ken and the trainers helped him focus on the tasks at hand.
Now, Ollie’s with Ken every day. “Ollie knows hours before I do that I’m even close to having a seizure. When he alerts, he gets on me and starts yelping. We could be walking along or playing and all of the sudden he’s letting me know there’s a seizure coming. I’m able to take medicine to prevent the seizure.”
Ken’s daughter takes care of him, but without Ollie, Ken knows the burden would be much more on her. “I’m so grateful for him. He allows me to be independent and he has helped me to enjoy my life and so many things that would be impossible without him.”
One of Ollie and Ken’s favorite things to do is to go camping together. “I have a camper and, with Ollie, we can go anywhere, even to remote areas where there’s not even electricity. I’d never be able to do that without him. We also like to go fishing together. I wouldn’t even be able to drive if it wasn’t for Ollie. Mobility-wise, I’d be lost without him.”
Ken credits Ollie with keeping him active and independent. “I tell him 100 times a day how much we need each other. I think he knows. I can’t imagine life without my Ollie Boy.”