1 February 2024
The life-changing support of a Harper & Keele Veterinary School student’s assistance dog has been featured on BBC TV’s The One Show.
Morgan Rixon and her toy poodle Sabbath featured in a segment made with Millie Gee, one of the most recent winners of the BBC Young Reporter of the Year competition, who is hoping to use an assistance dog at university.
The piece explored some of the issues which Millie has faced in training an assistance dog – and some of the ways in which Sabbath helps Morgan.
She told Millie: “I have an inflammatory disorder called Tietze syndrome and what that causes is inflammation of the costochondral joints in the chest. It can be very, very painful and cause issues breathing – so what she does there is she alerts me before that happens because she can smell the chemical change.”
Other tasks Sabbath performs include reminding Morgan to take anti-inflammatories, and performing deep pressure therapy.
Despite only being a small dog, Sabbath is able to use her body weight to slow Morgan’s heart rate as part of this therapy – helping her to avoid meltdowns.
As Morgan and Mille walk around the Harper Adams University campus, the programme captures Sabbath at work – after she detects Morgan’s heart rate rising, letting her know to sit down and rest before her condition worsens.
Sabbath has made a real difference to Morgan’s studies, as she told Millie. She explained how Sabaath – who Morgan trained herself – had to reach a Kennel Club Good Citizen Bronze award to work as an assistance dog at the Vet School.
She added: “She has been in my life for about a year now and has turned everything around. My attendance is so much better than it used to be, I go and do more things by myself, she’s given me the confidence to live by myself as well.
“Businesses and universities can sometimes be a bit, like, we’re not sure on the level of training, so they just wanted to see how she is being handled by other people, what she would be like in lectures, and whether she could settle.”
Speaking after the programme aired, Morgan added: “I initially got involved after being approached over social media.
“I’m always interested in projects like this, especially since the topic is so close to home.
“The Assistance Dog community, especially those that are at university, is a bit of hidden cause and isn’t something particularly mainstream. The goal is to shed the mystery and give an insight on what these amazing dogs do and how they help handlers like me.
“It was very strange to see myself on TV but I loved watching Sabbath being the superstar she is.”