Man’s best friend: Dog saves owner suffering from seizures
A real-life Lassie is earning praise in a Southeast community.
Eric Skousen and his mobility service dog Thorr are spending some time in Sitka Community Hospital where they’re learning just how deep their bond really goes.
Skousen has cerebral palsy. An infection put him in the hospital. Because Thorr is a certified service dog, he got to tag along.
Thorr is trained to detect an impending seizure and get Skousen to sit down before he falls. He can also help Skousen move around and pick up items dropped on the floor.
“What he’s trained to do and what he’s done while he’s been here are two completely different things,” said Skousen, of Thorr’s behavior while they’ve been in the hospital.
Usually, Thorr stays right by Skousen’s side.
“The first time we were in the nurse’s station and all of a sudden Thorr came here and we were like, ‘Hey, what are you doing in the nurse’s station, you should be in the room,’” said RN Chad Jessen.
Skousen was having a massive seizure and without training, Thorr knew what to do. He went straight to the nurses, including Jessen.
“When something is going on, he can let us know and then we’re able to react faster,” said Jessen. “That’s kind of the look on his face, too, ‘hey, come help!'”
Skousen thinks Thorr went for help because he knew his friend needed it. That’s the kind of bond they have, dating back three years to when Thorr was just a puppy.
“He gave me a look,” said Skousen of picking Thorr from the litter. “I guess I picked right.”
His name, Thorr with an extra R, is in part due to his size. It’s also Eric’s favorite Marvel Comics character, with whom, he says, he has a lot in common.
“Everything that I am: bad temper, strong, doesn’t use his brain all the time but he has one, but he’s always trying to do good, he’s always trying to help,” said Skousen.
Thorr, like the Norse god, even has his own hammer: that thumping Labrador tail.
On better days, the pair likes to adventure together, hiking, hunting and fishing. But these days, a trip around the hospital will have to do.
Since that first seizure, Eric has had three more.
“The last really bad one I had two days ago, I guess he barked and got them in here,” said Skousen. “I was falling off the bed so he was on the bed holding me. He let out one big bark and they figured something was wrong and all came running.”
Once again, Thorr alerted the nurses that they were needed.
“He just kept doing that every time,” said Jessen. “I think he probably will be a new member of the staff by the time he leaves.”
The seizures mean they’ll probably be in the hospital for a while. Skousen and his constant companion, their relationship is hard to define.
“I’d probably get emotional and that’d ruin my reputation,” said Skousen laughing.
“You can tell they’re like family, like brothers and depend on each other,” said Jessen.
Skousen said the doctors aren’t sure what caused his seizures to flare up the way they have. He and Thorr might move to a hospital in Anchorage where he can get further specialized treatment. He says whatever it is, he plans to have it beat in 30 days so he and Thorr can get back to the life they love.