‘Support dog gave me back my life,’ says epileptic Worksop woman

Sally Burton with her support dog, Robbie.
Sally Burton with her support dog, Robbie.

A disabled Worksop woman who says her life has been made “liveable” thanks to her support dog is highlighting the transformative effect clever assistance canines have on their disabled owners.

Sally Burton was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child and believed she had “reached the end of the line” after an intrusive brain surgery procedure failed to calm her daily seizures.

Believing she had nothing to lose, she signed up for a support dog after witnessing their remarkable ability to sense epileptic seizures and lead their owners to safety.

Sally, from Costhorpe, said: “At first I was very sceptical of the idea of a seizure alert dog, and remember laughing about it with my husband Phil.

“But then I saw a charity called Support Dogs had an open day coming up, I thought why not as nothing else had worked for me.

“When I went along I met a lady who had a seizure alert dog and I was amazed as I watched her dog alert her.

“It was enabling her to go somewhere private and have relative control of her seizures in safety.”

That was more than 13 years ago and Sally is now benefiting from life with Robbie, a black Labrador and her second seizure alert dog, after enjoying a partnership with her dog, Star for 11 years.

Sally, now 50, said: “Having a seizure alert dog instantly made my life liveable. Once of the first things I did when I first had Star was to make myself a cup of tea, something in 30 years I had not been able to do because of the risks of having a seizure while holding boiling water. I then went in to town on my own, again a life time first.”

She added: “These dogs do more than break down the barriers erected by illness or a deteriorating condition.

“Without a dog people tend to look right through you if you have a disability. But with Robbie people stop and ask what he does to help me. And I can do the ironing again now – though not many people think that’s much of a bonus.”

Support Dogs chief executive Rita Howson said: “Our dogs have a hugely transformative effect on our clients, and we’re delighted that Robbie is making such a difference to Sally’s life. We rely entirely on donations, and without that support we wouldn’t be able to continue with our life-changing work.”