Dog Ben calls for help to save owner’s life

PUBLISHED: 11:21 19 November 2010

Ben, the super dog, with his owner Gina Barratt and call operator Tracey Morgan. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 6209-46-10AW

Ben, the super dog, with his owner Gina Barratt and call operator Tracey Morgan. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 6209-46-10AW


Sidmouth’s Home Safeguard aids Gina after red button alert by pet Ben

LITTLE dog Ben saved his owner’s life after she had a chronic asthma attack.

The miniature Jack Russell, Chihuahua cross, who is nearly three, clawed at her chest as she sat gasping for breath late at night and pressed her Tarka Housing’s red button alarm she wears around her neck.

This alerted Sidbury woman Tracey Morgan, on night duty at Home Safeguard in Lymebourne Park, Sidmouth. She called an ambulance and stayed on the line to calm down the panic-stricken Gina Barratt, who lives in Bideford.

Tracey, 47, has worked for Home Safeguard, which deals with nearly 7,000 customers at the East Devon centre, since 2001 and says she was astonished to learn a dog had made the call.

“All I could hear was that the lady couldn’t breathe at all, so I called an ambulance for her. What I didn’t know was how the button had been pressed.

“We have people test the alarm and those who press it by mistake, it was very surprising to learn it was a dog that made the call,” she said.

Tracey stayed on the line, talking to Gina, 62, and helping her to calm down and breathe, until the paramedics arrived.

Gina, who travelled to Sidmouth on Wednesday with Karen Whitney, manager of the Red Button Tarka Emergency Helpline, gave Tracey flowers as a thank you.

She said: “Thank goodness I am here to talk about it. I keep wondering what would have happened if I hadn’t had the button and Ben there. I couldn’t have got to the ‘phone.

“Tracey talked to me all the time. I was panicking, I said ‘I am dying’ and she said ‘No, keep breathing slowly’. If it were not for Tracey and my buzzer I dread to think what might have happened.”

Also an epileptic, she said she always wears her alarm, but on the day of her attack, it got caught in her fleece and Ben jumped up and pressed it.

It turned out Gina had a bad chest infection, which had triggered the asthma attack, and she spent five days in hospital.

“My buzzer is my lifeline as I live on my own,” she said. “I have had Ben since he was eight weeks old and I haven’t trained him to do this, he seems to know when I am stressed and scratches at my chest and licks my face.”

Tracey said: “It is wonderful when you know you have saved a life, it is the best feeling in the world, it is even nicer to meet Gina in person.”

*The Tarka red button alarm operates 24 hours a day and costs £2.49 a week, although some users get it free. For more information call (01237) 428094.

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