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For a woman with fainting spells, her dog is her lifesaver

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, Adele is a specially trained cardiac alert dog, who would jump into action whenever her owner’s blood pressure dropped.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One Massachusetts service dog is now a trained lifesaver.

    Adele is one of the first cardiac alert dogs trained by Pennsylvania-based Canine Partners for Life.

    As Tina Martin from PBS station WGBH in Boston shows us, she's given hope to one grateful woman.

  • Tina Martin:

    This is Adele, a 13-year-old black lab and a literal lifesaver to Marty Harris.

  • Marty Harris:

    She has this presence to her. I used to joke that when I would walk down the street with her, people would get out of the way.

  • Tina Martin:

    Harris was born with a heart condition.

  • Marty Harris:

    Acute malignant neurocardiogenic vasovagal syncope.

  • Tina Martin:

    It caused daily fainting spells. The falls resulted in more than 30 concussions.

  • Marty Harris:

    When you get a diagnosis and you try all of the normal things that would work for this condition, none of it worked for me. I have a very rare, complicated version of it.

    And at one point, the doctors said, "Marty, I'm sorry, but there is really nothing more we can do for you."

  • Tina Martin:

    Meaning she would struggle with fainting spells for the rest of her life. Then she heard of Canine Partners for Life, and met Adele, who is a specially trained cardiac alert dog.

  • Marty Harris:

    She started alerting me right away. And in the beginning, every time she alerted me, I would lay down, because I didn't know how severe it was.

  • Tina Martin:

    Adele served as Harris' early warning system, springing into action when she sensed a drop in blood pressure.

  • Marty Harris:

    Sometimes, she just wants me to stand still, so she will stand in front of me to keep me from moving for a few minutes. She's like a brick wall. I couldn't take a step.

    If I had to lay down, she would lay across me to keep me from getting up until it was safe, or she would go up under my legs to get the blood back to my heart faster.

  • Tina Martin:

    Once, according to Harris' husband, Adele was able to catch her mid-faint.

  • Marty Harris:

    He said, you started to go down, and she bowed her body up, and she caught you, so your head never hit the floor. She caught you and lowered you to the ground

  • Tina Martin:

    Harris fainted only twice in the nine years Adele was on the job. And with her newfound security, she started living again.

  • Marty Harris:

    I was hiking up mountains, and I was Whitewater rafting, and I was going on all these great adventures with her that I probably wouldn't have done.

  • Tina Martin:

    A few years ago, the duo got the attention of Harris' former neighbor and filmmaker Melissa Dowler.

  • Melissa Dowler:

    This is an incredible story. I have never heard anything like what these dogs were capable of. I didn't even know there were cardiac alert service dogs.

  • Tina Martin:

    She decided to make a film about the pair, the story of Marty and Adele.

  • Melissa Dowler:

    What I realized is that we had documented an unbelievable love story. Marty and Adele's relationship, it's like soul mates.

  • Tina Martin:

    These days, Adele is a movie star who gets to spend her day lounging around the house. She retired two years ago, and is now the family pet, only working now and then to supervise Hector, a 4-year-old yellow lab and Harris' current cardiac alert dog.

  • Marty Harris:

    She likes telling people what to do.

  • Tina Martin:

    Well-deserved, after a long career of service.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Tina Martin in Boston.

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