Even in his most dapper James Bond tuxedo, little Louie, the Yorkshire terrier, no bigger than a teddy bear with his little pink tongue lolling around his mouth, looks like butter wouldn’t melt.
But this pocket-sized pooch isn’t just a pretty face. For the past seven years, Louie has been confidante, companion, carer and even life-saver to his owner Judith Shaw (61), who has severe glaucoma and also suffers panic attacks. But most important of all, Judith and Louie are soulmates.
“I got Louie when he was six after he’d been awfully abused as a youngster,” says Judith, who lives in Wrexham, North Wales. “He had really matted fur, was struggling to eat and had to have all his teeth taken out. He was also very scared and had a habit of hiding in corners and under tables when he arrived. But I love to have a dog to sit beside me and cuddle with me in bed, so over time we worked and worked and now he’s on the bed and I’m on the floor! He’s spoiled rotten.”
It wasn’t long, too, until Judith realised that she had a very clever and compassionate young man on her hands in Louie. “There was one afternoon when I was having a panic attack at home and whatever I did, I could not catch my breath. Almost immediately, Louie jumped on me and started pushing his head into my chest and licking me to try to calm me down. And, as soon as I felt him, I began to ease my breathing and relax.”
But it was in May 2012 that Louie showed his true colours as a genuinely amazing dog when Judith slipped out of the shower and fell unconscious on the bathroom floor. Lying there, the next thing she remembers is hearing a voice asking if she was all right. “I realised the voice was coming from my care call machine, but lying on the floor I couldn’t work out how I’d managed to press my call button.
“That’s when it dawned on me that it must have been Louie, who was by now sitting on my chest looking right at me. The lady at the care call centre then said she thought she’d heard a funny noise, like a baby crying, when the call came through.
“That was Louie asking for help for me,” says Judith. For his quick-thinking that day, Louie helped Judith get the medical help she needed and he was later honoured with an animal bravery award from the PDSA, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.
Yet that wasn’t the end of Louie’s heroic achievements. Just a year later in 2013, as Judith and Louie were about to head to bed for the night, Judith felt searing pains across her chest and left arm and collapsed on the floor.
She was having a heart attack. “Straight away, Louie was trying to get me up, nudging me with his nose and pawing at me. Then, of course, Mr Magic did his party trick and pressed the panic button and soon an ambulance came.
“The paramedics said that if it hadn’t been for Louie, things could have been a lot worse,” says Judith. “In a funny way I think in his little mind, he’s done all these things to help me as a way of saying thank you for me rescuing him from a difficult start to life.”
Judith and Louie like to take things easy. “Louie’s always watching me wherever I go and he follows me from room to room. I have to tell him what I’m doing and if ever I cry or am unwell he’ll come over and put his head on my lap and look at me to make sure I’m OK.
“Sometimes he seems to know that I’m not right even before I do. He comes to the doctor’s, he sits in the dentist’s chair with me and we go shopping together. And wherever we go, anyone who sees him instantly falls in love with him.”
Meanwhile, at home, Louie loves relaxing to a bit of music from Alfie Boe. “I’m a big fan of Alfie’s and have always said to Louie ‘ooh look it’s Uncle Alfie on telly’. But as soon as Alfie starts to sing, Louie is transformed. He goes into this Zen-like state. So much so that Louie’s groomer, who normally has a real job of getting his hair cut, has found if she puts on an Alfie Boe CD, he’ll let her do anything. Louie’s even been to Alfie Boe concerts with me and he’s loved it.”
Since Judith recently developed glaucoma and has lost her peripheral vision, Louie also acts as her eyes when she’s out and about. “When we’re walking and come to a kerb, I ask Louie if it’s safe to cross and he gives a little cry to let me know it is. He also tells me when there are people coming towards me and at my side. He’s as good as a guide dog.
“My doctor now recognises Louie as a form of emotional support dog for me. But really he’s my everything and has just always been there for me. He is my night, my day and I’d do anything to protect him.”
- Very sadly, shortly after Judith gave us this interview, Louie passed away. He was 13 and had been suffering from epilepsy for a while. Judith was very keen that we still ran this article in memory of her wonderful little Louie, and as a tribute to the faithful dog.
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