WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)- 11 dogs from Indiana are nominees for the 2021 Hero Dog Awards. One of those dogs is living in West Lafayette. Emily Harmon and her service dog Oakley attend Purdue University. Harmon has wanted to attend college at Purdue University ever since she can remember. She says if not for Oakley she wouldn’t be living out her dream of being a Boilermaker.
"I have a brain condition Chiari Malformation,” said Harmon. “She does different medical alerts. She can alert me before I have a headache before I get dizzy before I pass out and she can alert me to my heart rate as well as psychiatric things. I have PTSD she does several things to help with that."
Chiari Malformation is a condition in which brain tissue extends into your spinal canal. It occurs when part of your skull is abnormally small or misshapen, pressing on your brain and forcing it downward. Harmon had surgery to try and correct the issue not long after she was diagnosed in 2017. It wasn’t as successful as she’d hoped. She also suffers from anxiety and depression. All of these conditions are something Oakley is trained to spot.
"She's trained to recognize when I start to disassociate so she can guide me out of places," said Harmon. "She does deep pressure therapy so when my heart rate starts to elevate she will alert."
For all those reasons Oakley has been nominated for the 2021 American Humane Hero Dog Awards. Each year they pick a service dog to honor for their life-saving abilities. Emily says that's exactly what Oakley has done for her.
"She has saved my life since I've had her,” said Harmon. “I have a will to live because I have her. When I am really struggling and I am really thinking about bad things I remember that I have a dog that depends on me. She's just lifesaving I could not do anything without her."
To learn more about the Hero Dog Awards click here. To vote for Oakley to become the service dog of the year click here.