Hero Ben is a life-saver

Joseph Bulmer

Little dog is a hero after saving his owner’s life

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 Gina Barratt’s chest as she sat gasping for breath late at night and in doing so pressed the Tarka Housing red button alarm she wears around her neck.

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

Tracey stayed on the line, talking to Gina, 62, helping her to calm down and breathe, until 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 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. He’s my little hero, companion and lifesaver. 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.”

n 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.