AVM Survivors Network

Medic Alert Dog Arrival Imminent

Hi Seenie. She is a Smooth Collie - Lassie was a Rough Collie. A Smooth Collie’s coat is shorter and they retain more of their working instincts. They are also known as a Scottish or Scotch Collie which gives away their heritage lol. The Wikipedia link with more about the breed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smooth_Collie

Echo started to alert about 8 months ago. Five times she has alerted us 2-3 days before a medical emergency. As the radiation works it is causing irritation and swelling in Jack’s brain causing him to have episodes of vomiting which for Jack could cause a rupture. The first time we were able to manage it at home having stocked up on medication, because Echo told us to. The next two times Jack attended emergency where they had to bring in more stringent medication to control the episodes. The second last time he was admitted for observation with that hospital now saying that he is too complex for them to handle unless he needs stabilisation to be able to get to his base hospital. The last time he was admitted under the watch of the Neurosurgeons should anything drastically change as his vomiting was intense. We and his Neurosurgeon believe a rupture was missed and are waiting on the results of an MRI. He has added a note to Jack’s file now (he wasn’t on duty) that should Jack come in it’s MRI every time. If he isn’t in immediate danger we always opt for MRI as he’s had so much radiation already so keep the CT’s for extreme emergencies.
As for Echo’s alerting, no longer are we caught off guard. We get in medication, we change schedules, we’re ready to act because she’s telling us it’s coming. And Jack’s doctors now all take note of her behaviour in regards to Jack. Jack’s physiotherapist can even tell how Jack is feeling by Echo’s behaviour when he arrives. The more excited she is the more pain Jack is in. She’s excited because she knows he can help.

I should have added, although she was the first dog ever trained for the purpose of detecting brain bleeds of an AVM, there are others now following behind her for other conditions which can cause brain bleeeding.


Clearly Jack is a very poorly lad and you work like crazy to look after him but the information about Echo is fascinating and amazing. It’s great you’ve got Echo as a companion dog. Completely amazing!

Very best wishes,


It’s fascinating to watch Dick! The reason why she was the first dog is prior to that no-one was sure that an animal could detect it. What led to the dog was that when Jack came home from hospital after his first rupture one of the cats moved to his bed and slept there every night. She didn’t leave until he had the second bleed. She then moved back to her old sleeping spot. It was a definitive change in her behaviour. When I first enquired about a dog the organisation asked how the other animals in the house behaved towards Jack. With one cat there was no change but when I told them of this cat they said that they could train a dog. Essentially how it works is that the cat, and now the dog, smell the chemical change in him caused by alterations in his metabolism. We can’t smell it but we don’t have their sense of smell. What is key to this response though is the bond between the animal and the person. Sometimes this forms naturally as with the cat and sometimes it is helped along as with the dog.

Oh and she isn’t a companion dog. She’s an assistance dog (which you might know as a service dog). They are highly trained, cannot be denied access anywhere except sterile areas or food preparation areas and are considered a medical aid. The psychological benefits are a bonus but she has a purpose and that is to alert to changes in Jack’s brain. At first she would alert when he was coming down with a virus or any other minor medical situation but over time has honed it down to just the serious stuff.

I used the wrong term in my rush to read everything you were saying at lunchtime! My inbox went completely mad :rofl:

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lol I wonder why? Who did that to you? <slinks away, not admitting to being the culprit>

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This is just a really cool example of what thinking outside the box can do. It reminds me of a friend in the States who has an adopted son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. They have a St. Bernard that has been trained (maybe that’s not the right word) to recognize when their son is going into trauma based meltdown mode (kicking, screaming, yelling, throwing things at people, self harm, you name it.) The dog will sense it and immediately start physically intervening - rubbing his big head on the kids shoulders, come up to him sideways and gradually move and urge him to a wall where their son will eventually sit down, while screaming and swearing and all of that, Mr. Dog will stay right in front of him and once he sits down the dog sits “over” his lap and essentially pins him into a 200 lb pillow of softness. No matter what he does, the dog won’t move until he is purposely and vocally given the command, “Mr. Dog, good job, you can get up.” I saw one of their training videos with him once, absolutely amazing. Hat’s off to you and to anyone who can make man’s best friend, man’s best helper.

Now can somebody help my mentally lacking but adorable and cute yorkie poos and a maltese to stop hurting my head by barking so much? To say I’ll jealous would be an understatement!


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My son keeps me permanently out of the box! World firsts all over with that kid! The number of doctors he has scratching their heads is almost funny :slight_smile:
When I say that she was the first dog trained, that is global, as to others coming behind her, that’s in Australia. I don’t know if it has progressed beyond our borders yet but if so would most likely expect Israel as the company who trained her also do a lot of work there.
In the case of the St Bernard, the response would be trained because of how intricate it is but there are others who naturally develop their own response that works. It is certainly less stressful for the dog if they have a clear way of communicating with the person they are helping. In our case my son’s dog knows that when he gets sick, she gets treats. She doesn’t alert unless he’s not well but the treats may it almost a fun thing for her.
As to your barking pooches lol…have you ever tried a citronella collar or citronella spray? They don’t like the smell so soon get the message. Mind you, you’re up against it with the little dogs. They HAVE to make their presence knows so everybody knows how tough they are lol.

Ever see the Movie Groundhog Day? Tom Hanks starred in it and every day when he wakes up it is Ground Hog Day and it repeats and repeats and as he is realizing what is going on, he gets more daring. My dogs live Ground Hog day. Every single possible solution to their barking works - for 1 to 2 weeks - and then they are like, nah, I don’t think so. It wasn’t nearly as big of an issue before my ears got screwed up.

I do realize it is a Stateside movie but we have enjoyed streaming a number of shows and movies from you all. Been some good stuff.


It takes 6 months of consistent effort to break a habit. Is it worth it for you?
Groundhog Day is seriously one of the most imaginative, complex and hilarious movies I’ve ever seen. A study in how many different directions the same story beginning can head. If it isn’t used in writers workshops then it should be.


Actually, it was Bill Murray, but Bill was fantastic in it… suited him perfectly.

It makes me smile just thinking about that movie.


I think it was the first time that I realised Bill could really act.

Ever had a day a bit like that? A lot of miss-starts?

I think TJ is a bit stuck in Groundhog Day and he just tries something different every day to see if it makes any difference.

But, you know what, TJ?

Never give up trying because we love you and your family love you anyway. It’s just sometimes it doesn’t show.

Lots of love,


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Just a day like that? I’ve had way more than that…

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At first read, I wasn’t sure what you meant and I was thinking, “Is he messing with me?” But the more I thought about what you said, I don’t know if this is the way you meant it, but it’s the way I’m going to take it:

When you are not able to work outside the home, your days all seem to run together. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have a hard time figuring out what day it is because they all start to look the same.

I have seen so many doctors as we’ve attempted to work on so many aspects of what the AVM screwed up - headache docs, ear docs, throat docs, psych docs, eye docs, lung docs, my regular doc and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of them in the list. Every single one of them either said, “There’s nothing we can do” or let’s see if this works and if this doesn’t, then there’s nothing else we can do besides for wait and hope the nerves heal themselves.

Because of that, I feel like I have to try to “adjust” things myself to try to make a difference. If my headaches have improved (somedays they have, some days it seems like they haven’t) it is because I have and am learning how to control my surroundings in order to reduce the pain and such from the headaches.

So, yes, I guess in many ways, my life post January 30, 2018 has been like the movie. And Richard, I know, but it’s always good to hear it, last month has been 38 years since my better half and I went on our first date (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - great first date movie) and in July we will celebrate 35 years worth of marriage. We don’t always show it, we don’t always understand each other but God has been so good to me in allowing me to marry my best friend from high school…

Quite often, I remind myself of the shortest commencement speech ever given. Winston Churchill at an Ivy League school after WWII. He stood up, went to the podium, scanned the crowd, leaned in to the microphone and said, “Never, Never, Never Give Up.”

And then he turned around went back to his chair. Once they realized the full implications of what he said, the crowd gave him a lengthy and heart felt standing ovation.


P.S. - Moderators, if you think we’ve hijacked this post and should have it as a separate discussion, feel free to break it off or tell me how to.


That’s exactly what I meant! I’ve got a good lady, too.

I’ll let Christine tell us if we need to move this diversion elsewhere. If so, I can move it.

Very best wishes,


Hey TJ,
Ohh you’ve touched on a few raw nerves there, for me anyway.

“…your days all seem to run together…” Yes, yes and yes and I HATE it. I used to have ‘monuments’ in my week, days on which certain things would happen. That’s all gone. I used to be able to plan for things to happen on a certain day, now I seem to plan around symptoms and yet I never know from one day to the next which symptoms will need to be managed. All of that control has evaporated.

“…I have seen so many doctors…” and “There’s nothing we can do”
For me the conflicting arguments can be so frustrating. Every one of them has a differing opinion. And like you my symptoms fluctuate wildly. If I see a Dr on a good day it’s like ‘Well, I don’t see an issue…’ but if I see a dr on a bad day, it’s like ‘OMG’. Now if they are saying OMG, they can only imagine what it’s like for us. This is a reality many of them have very little clue about “Just take a Panadol” Panadol?? Are you kidding me??? A Panadol is like taking a sugar tablet. No use at all. I have learnt that I have to manage all of this for me, not the dr’s. They cannot see nor feel nor (in many cases) even comprehend the rollercoaster we are on. As I’ve said many times before:

    "Some days I can leap a tall building in a single bound,
     (OK, so a bit of an exaggeration) 
     Other days I'm lucky to crawl out of bed. I can NEVER tell."

And for some medicos this is really difficult to understand. No amount of explanation seems to be able to get the message across that there is no such things as ‘normal’ anymore. It’s more like ‘What is the day going to present me with today???’ For some medicos they just don’t seem to ‘Get it’. I’ve tried to educate them, but have found you can’t educate people who know-it-all.

“…last month has been 38 years since my better half and I went on our first date…”
This year it’s been 25yrs since the wife and I started going out together I’ve told her many times, she’d get less of a sentence for murder, but still she’s stuck by me. I tell you, that woman deserves a medal (or a psych exam). We are just so lucky TJ. I thank my lucky stars on a daily basis I can assure you.

Merl from the Moderator Support Team.

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Bill Murray is the best, I also liked him in St Vincent.