The Unexpected Abilities of a Guide Dog In An Emergency Situation

By Janell Groskreutz


My guide dog Sully, and I were out on another shopping adventure with my mom.  I use the term “adventure” because more often than not something unusual, ridiculous or out of the ordinary will happen to us.  On this particular gloomy Sunday afternoon, we were perusing the aisles when suddenly an elderly lady passed out right behind us.  Her cart flipped over and all her merchandise scattered across the floor, some of it hitting Sully and me.  I can thankfully say I have never been in this situation, so I had to quickly kick my brain into action.  It became readily apparent that my mom was going to be the one of us panicking, and I was going to have to determine what to do.


My mom started screaming “help, someone help” and I got down on the ground trying to locate the lady.  I shoved my arm through the loop in Sully’s leash and gave him the command “down.” Fortunately, it only took a few seconds to find the distressed lady.  She was laying on her side on the floor.  I grabbed her hand and asked her if she could talk.  I could hear her breathing, but she was not able to talk.  I told her to stay still and I was calling 911, thinking she may have had a stroke.


My mom ran and got something from the shelf for her to put her head on, and oddly enough the first soft item she found was a dog bed of all things.  My mom was still trying to get the attention of a store employee.  Finally, an employee came over and said she was going to call her manager.  My loud, and probably not very cordial response to the employee was, “forget the manager, I am already on the phone with 911.”


In the meantime, I felt to my left for Sully.  I discovered he had crept his way right up to the lady, and laid his head on the ground right in front of her, and was gazing up at her with his big brown eyes.


As frequently happens at an accident scene, a crowd started to gather around us.  Eventually there were about 15 people milling around the lady, Sully and myself, while I continued to hold her hand, reminding her to lay still, and that help is on the way.  The 911 operator was giving me instructions, and I was relaying back to her as much pertinent information as I could.


Finally, I heard the ailing stranger try and mutter a few words, and then she reached out for Sully.  He never even picked up his head, and just laid staring at her.  I explained that I am blind and Sully is my guide dog, and that it is okay for her to pet him—thinking that may keep her calm.


Time crept by slower than molasses in January, but finally the EMTs were there.  When they got to the scene they asked the lady if Sully was her dog.  I responded with he is mine and that I am blind.  They both replied that he was an enormous help in keeping her calm and keeping the situation under control.  Again, during all the chaos, Sully never lifted his head until I stood up and gave him the command to “stand.” As I stood I realized I in fact did not have Sully’s leash, and he was free the entire time, yet he never moved a muscle!


As we slowly walked away, Sully kept turning his head looking at the lady on the stretcher, still assessing the situation, repeating this for the next 50 steps we took.


I gave him tons and tons of praises, let him shake it off a few times, and we made a stop in the dog treat aisle on our way out.


I could not have been prouder of my pup, he did better than most of the adults at the chaotic scene!  Yet another testimonial to the outstanding abilities of these incredible dogs!  Obviously, I love and appreciate him for his fabulous guiding ability, and now I have a new-found respect for him that I never thought possible.  Sully was spot on, even in a stressful situation that I’m certain he didn’t have prior practice with!

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