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3-year-old shepherd-husky alerts owner when she's about to lose consciousness

·3-min read

This service dog is tuned in to her disabled owner's rare condition and alerts her when she is close to passing out.  

Three-year-old shepherd-husky mix Ramona alerts her owner Darbi Mulkey, 26, when she is close to losing consciousness.  

Darbi suffers from a heart rate - blood pressure problem - that can lead to her being overstimulated and passing out.  

"One of the symptoms of my disability is that if my body goes into fight or flight too quickly or too severely, I'll pass out," said the graphic designer from Metairie, Louisiana. 

"I had a lot?of physical things going on that were a result of my mental health issues, because that's what happens when you don't get your mental health issues dealt with." 

In 2017, Darbi followed her therapist's recommendation to get an emotional support dog and adopted Ramona, soon discovering that she offered more. 

"Ramona naturally alerts me to my heart rate," she said.  

"She started picking up on something that my body is doing a good 15 minutes before I would get to the point of fight or flight hitting me like a freight train. 

"I tracked it for about six months using an Apple Watch before I was like 'okay, this is what she's doing.'" 

While her trainer thinks it's Darbi's blood pressure or heart rate that Ramona's picking up on, they aren't certain. 

"The general consensus among the service dog community, reputable trainers and programs is that it can't be trained," Darbi said.  

"It's something that either dogs pick up on or they don't and since it can't be trained, we don't know what they're picking up on exactly." 

Ramona alerts Darbi by nudging her with her nose.   

"If I don't listen to that she'll paw at me," Darbi said.  

"If I completely refuse to listen, she'll refuse to move." 

Once Ramona begins alerting her, she won't stop until Darbi takes medicine that lowers her heart rate to keep her from passing out.  

"Generally, Ramona won't stop alerting until my heart rate goes down, usually because I took my meds," Darbi said.  

"Very rarely one dose won't work and I'll have to take a second, and in that case, she'll just keep alerting."

Sometimes wearing UV googles to protect her heterochromia eyes, Ramona is often approached by adoring strangers, but Darbi wants people to know that while she's cute, she is also on duty.  

"People always talk about how she's cute, and she is, but she has a really important job," she said.   

"She's very serious and takes her job super seriously." 

Darbi said the biggest thing Ramona has given her is her independence back.   

"I couldn't go to anything because I'd get overwhelmed and pass out," she said.  

"But in February 2020, I went to a New Orleans Pelicans game, and I hadn't been since they were the Hornets.  

"It wasn't something I could do, and Ramona has allowed me to." 

Before she got Ramona Darbi couldn't even attend her younger siblings' extra-curricular activities for fear of blacking out.  

She added: "But when Ramona finished her training, I went to every single thing I could, and I didn't have a single issue; no passing out. 

"I had conversations with them after the fact and I didn't know how much me not being able to attend their events was affecting them." 

Darbi said she has complete faith in Ramona and plans to continue attending events with her by her side.  

"My sister is trying out for LSU's band next year and I will have my butt at LSU games, which are exceedingly overwhelming, but I can do it now," she said. 

"Ramona's changed my life and changed my family's life as well." 

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