RICHLAND, Wash. – Faith the service dog phoned 911 when her owner fell out of her wheelchair and barked urgently into the receiver until a dispatcher sent help.
Then the 4-year-old Rottweiler unlocked the front door so the responding police officer could come in.
“I sensed there was a problem on the other end of the 911 call,” said dispatcher Jenny Buchanan, who answered the call from Faith.
“The dog was too persistent in barking directly into the phone receiver,” Buchanan said at Benton County’s Southeast Communications Center. “I knew she was trying to tell me something.”
Faith is trained to summon help by pushing a speed-dial button on the phone with her nose after taking the receiver off the hook, said her owner Leana Beasley, 45, who suffers grand mal seizures.
Guided by experts at the Assistance Dog Club of Puget Sound, Beasley helped train Faith herself.
“She’s a real trooper,” Beasley said Thursday.
The day of the fall, Faith “had been acting very clingy, wanting to be touching me all day long,” Beasley said.
The dog, whose sensitive nose can detect changes in Beasley’s body chemistry, is trained to alert her owner to impending seizures before they happen.
But that wasn’t what was happening on Sept. 7, and Faith apparently wasn’t sure how to communicate the problem. During Beasley’s subsequent three-week hospital stay, doctors determined her liver was not properly processing her medication for the seizures.
“So my whole system was not working right,” she said.
Faith “was just very concerned,” Beasley recalled. “She wouldn’t let me out of her sight. She wanted to be touchy-feely.”
After her adult son left for the graveyard shift, Beasley tried to go to sleep. But Faith kept jumping up on the bed, which is off limits.
“It’s kind of hard to sleep when you’ve got an 80-pound dog running around in circles on your bed,” she said.
So Beasley got up and checked to make sure all the doors were locked and that there was no one outside. She made another attempt at sleep, but Faith would have none of it. “Within five minutes she was doing the same thing all over again.”
So Beasley got up again and decided to make some hot chocolate.
The last thing she remembers is reaching for the tea kettle.
“I didn’t feel anything,” she said. “I just went unconscious.”
After the call from Faith, Buchanan dispatched Richland Police Cpl. Scott Morrell. He arrived to see Faith and her predecessor, now-retired service dog Bronson, peering at him from Beasley’s front window.
Morrell knocked, and then realized the door was unlocked.
“Faith had already opened the door for him,” Beasley said. The dog has been trained to recognize police officers, firefighters and medical personnel as “special friends with cookies.”
Inside, Morrell found Beasley on the kitchen floor — unconscious after striking her head in the fall and suffering a seizure — and called for medical assistance.
Faith watched intently while a paramedic tended Beasley and at one point tried to tell him that another seizure was imminent. He didn’t recognize the signal, but minutes later, “Boom, I went into another seizure,” Beasley said.
She woke up in the hospital several days later. Faith joined her after her transfer to the Veterans Administration hospital in Walla Walla.
Authorities learned about Faith’s intervention when Beasley stopped by to thank Buchanan and Morrell after her release from the hospital.
A Benton County Emergency Services news conference Thursday put Faith and her owner in the limelight.