BELONGING TO EACH OTHER
March 14, 2018
Later published in Volume 10, Issue 4
Six feet stand on the rain-soaked grounds of Eugene, Oregon. Two belong to Molly Neher, a recent graduate of the University of Oregon. The other four belong to Reid, a personable labradoodle who helps Molly handle life with seizures in a way that nothing else can.
Four years ago, Molly was hit in the head with a full beer can, causing a concussion that led to bleeding in her brain. Two months later, she started experiencing frequent seizures related to the injury. With seizures occurring upwards of ten times a day, she was left with little independence. The unpredictability of when one would occur riddled even simple everyday acts with uncertainty.
That uncertainty dissolved when Reid began to detect Molly’s seizures six weeks after he arrived in her life. “I was able to cross the street by myself again,” Molly said. “That was a pretty big life improvement. My parents weren’t letting me go up the stairs by myself. Sometimes, in acts of rebellion, I would.”
Reid detects and responds to Molly's seizures before they happen and alerts her with a nudge and an urgent look in his eyes. Reid is trained for seizure response — he lays next to Molly and acts as a buffer to keep her safe. He licks her arms and gets her moving again. He stays by her side and rests with her. There is no way, however, to train an animal to detect seizures, Molly said. It’s something that just happens naturally.
Vest on, Reid is alert and attentive to Molly. At home, he's a goof who likes to mooch food off of Molly's roommates Lilly and Kat, all while running around with a chewed up blanket in his mouth. He chases his tail and barks at strangers passing by their apartment's front window. He plays fetch and gets excited for treats. Reid is a dog, after all, and although he looks after Molly, she still has a large role to play in his life as well — something that she’ll do without question.
When the summertime temperatures radiate throughout Oregon, Molly must choose whether or not it’s worth it to bring Reid absolutely everywhere she goes. The heat
makes Molly more susceptible to her seizures and presents dangers to dogs like Reid.
Molly has to gauge whether or not she should bring Reid with her, and won’t if there is potential dangers to Reid -- even if that means she risks having an unexpected seizure.
“I’ll choose his health over mine any time,” she says.
Molly's roommate Lilly says she and Reid are two peas in a pod. And there's really no other way to put it. Where Molly goes, Reid goes. They're in synch, and Molly's just as attentive to Reid as he is to her. They rely on each other with every step those six feet take. If he's looking up at her, odds are their eyes will meet because she's looking at him too.