An Oklahoma service dog is in the running for a big award after saving a 15-year-old girl's life.
Wherever Addison Pittinger goes, so does her Goldendoodle Barry.
“I honestly get really stressed without him,” she said.
It's hard to tell by looking at her, but Pittinger is living with Tourette syndrome. When she was just 12, she took a nap and woke up with the neurological disorder. The condition is so serious she’s now home-schooled.
“Tourettes is just the tip of the iceberg, and there's a ton of other disorders underneath it,” she said.
Pittinger suffers from anxiety, over compulsive disorder, twitching and sensory problems. She has fainting spells, pseudo seizures and uncontrolled verbal outbursts. She's been on more than 50 medications and nothing has worked.
Then she got Barry. She said he’s better than medicine, “Lifesaver, best friend, companion, cute animal.”
Barry senses an episode minutes in advance. He gives Pittinger and her family fair warning and then calms her in the moments following. Many times Pittinger will pass out or have outbursts in public places; but instead of people looking, she said they always seem to focus their attention on Barry.
“He takes away all the embarrassment of it because Tourettes is very, very embarrassing to have,” she said. “They're looking at the big, poufy dog, not me.”
Before becoming a service dog, Barry was a rescue dog that Tulsa Glad Wags master trainer and president Marjorie Satterfield found. Her non-profit organization only trains rescue dogs, then sells them an affordable price.
“It would be nice to gift dogs, but we’re not corporately funded and we have to keep our doors open some way,” Satterfield said. “It’s important for me to get dogs to people that really need them, no matter what. We do whatever we can do to make it work.”
Satterfield tailored-trained Barry for Pittinger, and for handling Tourette syndrome.
“Because Tourettes is so volatile and so different…it’s a more difficult dog to train because there’s so many variables, and each person may have a different level of Tourettes,” Satterfield said.
Pittinger and Barry had an instant connection and they’ve been a team for about nine months.
Right after he came home with her, Barry’s skills were put to the test when Pittinger passed out face down in the bathtub. Barry sensed what was about to happen and licked Pittinger’s hand. She knows now that’s a warning sign, but didn’t realize at the time.
“He came over there and kept licking my hand and licking my hand and I was like, ya know, 'Thank you. Stop. It's OK,'” she said. “Then I just remember passing out and when I came back to he was by me and my mom was by me holding my head up.”
Barry saved her by immediately alerting Pittinger’s mom.
“Ten seconds later and I might not be here. It was perfect timing all the way around,” she said.
Because of what he did that day, Barry has been nominated for the American Humane Hero Dog Award. The winner will be flown to Hollywood for a star-studded award gala, which will be broadcast on national TV.
Barry is the only Oklahoma dog nominated for the hero award. And while the title would be a great honor, Pittinger really wants the world to know service dogs can change lives, and that Tourettes doesn't have to.
“Whenever I first got diagnosed, me and my mom made a plan and it's either you can cry about it or you can life about it. And I think it's obvious which one we chose,” she said laughing.
The public can help Barry make to the second round by voting for him online.