A father of two who was left fighting for his life after catching chickenpox has been nursed back to health by his hero pet dog who licks him when he needs to take medication.
Seven years ago a serious case of chickenpox resulted in brain damage for Jonathan Sheldon, 45, from Essex, in the UK.
It left him in seriously ill health and he developed Addison's Disease, which means he doesn't produce enough of the hormone cortisol.
The road to recovery was fraught but three years ago, Jonathan, who lives with his wife, Nicola, 44, and two children, Harrison, eight, and Holland, six, said his life changed when they imported hero therapy dog, Teddy.
The black Russian terrier was trained by experts at specialist kennels in Hungary, before he was brought to the UK.
Mr Sheldon, who hasn't had an Addison's related attack since he met Teddy, says his furry friend has saved his life.
“My cortisol can drop to dangerous levels in only 20 to 30 minutes without me realising,” the former hedge fund manager explained.
“Teddy is an incredibly intelligent dog and is highly trained to be aware of any drops in my cortisol levels.
“He knows to alert me through facial expressions or pawing if he senses a drop, which allows me to take my medication in time to prevent any lapses.”
"Before, my life was very scary, not knowing if I would wake up in the morning,” he said.
While they say dogs are a man’s best friend, in this case, it couldn’t be more axiomatic.
“He's a pretty awesome dog and he's changed my life completely and we are inseparable ...Thanks to him, I can go on living and being around my family,” Mr Sheldon said.
Teddy is by his side 24/7, including trips to the cinema, restaurants and supermarkets, carrying lifesaving medication in his harness.
“When the harness is on, it’s like a switch – he isn't my friend anymore, he's a working dog but the rest of the time, he's so affectionate,” Mr Sheldon said.
“He's at my side whatever I do, in the kitchen, even when I go to the toilet. He sticks to me like glue and he's amazing with the kids.
The dog was partially trained in obedience when the family first got him and then he was subsequently trained to detect when his owner’s cortisol levels were low.
‘We didn't think I'd live much longer’
Mr Sheldon baffled doctors when he started collapsing and falling unconscious after he caught chickenpox when he was 36.
“I was a perfect, normal, unusually and extremely healthy man,” he recalled. “I was outdoorsy and sporty and I had a professional job ... I was athletic and really successful for my age then this just hit me out of the blue.
His physical health suddenly gave out.
“I started collapsing, falling unconscious and my health just started deteriorating aggressively.
“If I don't take the correct amount of cortisol, stubbing my toe or catching a common cold can put me into a coma,” he said.
As his body doesn't produce cortisol – which helps the body respond to stress and prevent it from going into shock – low levels can cause weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, dizziness, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
Mr Sheldon has fallen unconscious over 100 times and says small ailments or accidents could kill him as he lacks the hormone to help his body respond to pain.
“We didn't think I'd live much longer,” he recalled. “It's been horrific for my wife.
“She [once] had to wake me up when I've been blue and an air ambulance had to come. I was down to my last breath, two or three a minute.”
But thanks to Teddy, live is back to almost normal for the father of two.
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