In college, when Cienna Ditri passed out, hit her head, and came close to drowning in her tub, it was her beloved pet dog who saved her life. But that was only the first time.
Her life has been saved multiple times by several different dogs. In fact, the twenty-something has said that her service dog Piper continues to save her life each and every day.
Cienna may appear on the outside like any other woman in her twenties, but in reality, she lives with multiple chronic conditions and is affected by their symptoms every day. One of these conditions is hypokalemic periodic paralysis, which typically begins in childhood or early adolescence.
The rare disease causes episodes of extreme muscle weakness, which temporarily takes away the ability for you to move the muscles in your arms and legs. The intensity and frequency of these attacks vary, and they can cause weakness or paralysis lasting from a few hours to entire days.
But she doesn’t let that stop her from living her life. Cienna has the confidence to pursue her dreams because she has such an incredible service dog by her side.
“On a daily basis, Piper helps me with more things than I can count honestly. He helps me a lot with closing doors behind me, picking up things I drop on the floor, or grabbing water bottles for me, all normal things that service dogs do, like push the little accessibility buttons for the doors. But Piper is a medical alert service dog too, so he does a lot of alerts to let me know before things happen,” said Cienna.
Not only that, but Piper alerts Cienna when her blood sugar is low, when she is about to pass out, and when she’s having allergic reactions. How? Piper is trained to smell medical changes. He even helps her stabilize her heart rate and blood pressure. But the most essential of Piper’s skills is alerting her when she’s not breathing.
Cienna and Piper have lived together for just under five years, and in that time, they have developed a super special bond.
“He loves it when I roll really fast in my wheelchair or when we’re at the ocean like jumping off our boat. He loves doing all those things, but he also just loves snuggling in bed. He’s really good with any type of day you want to have, he’s the ideal dog,” she said.
It was after the incident where she almost died in the tub that she got her first service dog, Obi. But after years of being her constant companion, Obi developed a seizure disorder and was officially retired as a “working dog.” Now, he lives a life of luxury as an official couch potato pup.
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