West Lafayette man with epilepsy trains golden retriever to ‘snuggle’ in an emergency

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A man in West Lafayette is leaning on his golden retriever to help control his seizures in emergency situations.

Derek Douglass has drug-resistant epilepsy, which means his seizures can’t be controlled using medications alone.

The Purdue University grad and longtime employee uses a medical device treatment called VNS Therapy, which works in conjunction with seizure medication.

Since Douglass lives alone, he has a service dog named Rosco.

Douglass is training Rosco so he’s able to activate the device in times of need.

“I believe it’s a good pairing,” Douglass said. “He goes with me to work; he’s beside me all the time.”

Through VNS Therapy, treatment is delivered through a small device which is implanted under the skin of the chest. In order to stop a seizure once it begins, the device manually delivers an additional dose of therapy with the swipe of a magnet across the chest.

That’s where Rosco comes in to help!

On top of his standard training as a seizure alert dog, Rosco is learning how to how to swipe Douglass’ therapy magnet.

The golden retriever wears the tiny magnet on a bandanna around his neck and is being trained to “snuggle” with him in the event of a seizure. The snuggling movement will allow the magnet to pass over Douglass’ device.

Douglass said Rosco isn’t just his service dog, but his best friend.

“With Rosco beside me, I’m more confident going out in public,” he said. “If something happens, he’s right there to protect me.”

Douglass said his coworkers at Purdue have embraced having Rosco around during work and enjoy playing with him when he’s off duty.

“Rosco gives me security and confidence to fight the Epilepsy Monster,” Douglass said.

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