Everyone knows about guide dogs and the tremendous job they do in supporting their blind owners, writes Paul Freeman.
But dogs are now being trained to support people with all sorts of other disabilities and health problems.
Dougal is an amazing dog that I had the privilige of meeting recently.
He is an eight-year-old terrier cross, who has been trained to recognise the warning signs when his owner, Sue, is about to have a seizure (epileptic fit).
What is remarkable is that Dougal recognises these signs well before his owner, and is able to warn her by sitting down and staring at her.
If she takes no notice, he will nudge her leg.
If she still ignores him, perhaps because she is talking to a friend, Dougal will start barking.
This warning is so important, because 400 people die each year in the UK because of accidents that happen during a seizure.
If there is sufficient warning, the person can make themselves safe, by seeking help or just leaving what they are doing and sitting down.
Dougal will even bring the phone to Sue when he recognises the warning signs, or bring a blanket to cover her while she is recovering from a seizure.
Sue says that Dougal has transformed her life, because she now has the confidence to go out more and take part in activities that many people take for granted.
She is a keen football fan, but felt that she couldn’t go to matches because a seizure at the match would be very disruptive and frightening for all around her, and would involve an emergency call to the paramedics.
Now, with Dougal at her side, she knows in good time when a seizure is about to happen, and can go to the paramedics room where she can be looked after while she has the seizure and until she is well enough to resume her seat and watch the rest of the match.
Meeting Dougal made me realise that we humans don’t have all the answers. In some ways, our fellow creatures can be wiser than us.