“/>Zoe with Stowe, the black labrador who changed her life
A Stowe School-sponsored medical tracker dog changed the life of a woman with multiple health problems, making it possible for her to live alone for the first time.
‘Stowe’ graduated in 2018 and was a partner with 32-year-old Zoe Woolford.
Since then, Zoe has not had a hospital emergency room and feels “can handle anything”.
“/> Stowe as a puppy
She said, “Stowe made a huge difference to me and my family. He was trained to warn me of an upcoming episode so I can get myself into a safe position.
“He also gives me time to alert someone if I need to. He never missed an episode and because of that, the impact is far less.
“If I pass out, he’ll keep licking me to bring me around, and he’ll get me a medical kit and water.”
Zoe was diagnosed with Ehler’s Danlos joint hypermobility syndrome, fibromyalgia, and postural tachycardia syndrome. She has frequent spells of dizziness, darkening, and severe fainting, which often lead to injury, including slipped joints, cuts, and bruises. She was afraid to go out alone.
“/> Stowe and another Medical Detection Dog trainee visit Lyttelton House students at Stowe School
Stowe’s students first learned about the work of the Great Horwood-based charity Medical Detection Dogs in 2015 when supporter and Swanbourne-based Betsy Duncan-Smith visited to give a talk on her work. Several employees were also puppy socializers for the charity.
Inspired by the talk, the entire school ran fundraising drives, including mufti days, donut sales, bike rides for charity, and language day donation booths, to raise enough money in 2016 to fund a puppy’s education.
Born in October 2016, the Labrador puppy made his school debut at the opening of his renovated science facility – he became an instant hit with students, being called the Stowe.
It had a massive impact on Zoe’s confidence.
She said, “Before I had Stowe, I couldn’t see how my future would ever change so that I could live independently again and be out and about meeting people on my own.
“But in early 2020, Stowe and I moved into our own home together, which I thought was unlikely. Although I sometimes need support for my various health conditions, we live alone and enjoy ourselves. I can go out with Stowe and make many new friends on my walks closed, as we now know from the other hikers in my new area.
“Health conditions that are not always visible can make life very lonely, but Stowe took that loneliness away.”
Stowe was even able to stay in the hospital with Zoe during scheduled surgeries last year, which meant she didn’t need to have a highly monitored bed. He alerted staff several times that she was about to have a medical episode so they could take appropriate action.
Zoe, who lives in Hampshire, stays in touch with the Stowe School and was invited to tea in May 2019 to support the Lyttelton House students who were raising funds for a new puppy, Billy – now just under two years old and in training a medical alert dog like Stowe.
The school’s Grafton house students have also sponsored a chocolate lab, Bea, named for their beloved matron – Ms. Bosman, known as Ms. B.
Bea joined the MDD team in October 2019 and is part of the Covid-19 sniff experiment.
Speaking of the black Labarador who changed her life, Zoe said to the advertiser, “I never expected how much influence he had. Living alone and going out alone was the difference he made. It would Not.” It would not be possible if it weren’t for the trust he has given me and this security. I hardly went out before.
“For me he feels like an extra link, as if he were a part of me. I would be lost without him, we are so connected. He really is a hero. He is a very special boy.”
Medical Detection Dogs trains Medical Alert Dogs to assist people with life-threatening health conditions. Cancer detection dogs are also trained to use their amazing sense of smell – 10,000 times more accurate than humans’ – to detect the smell of the disease in biological samples.