All Support Dogs are special, but Wolfy’s dual role as a seizure alert and guide dog makes him even more of a hero hound.

Black Labrador Wolfy acts as owner Toni Brown-Griffin’s eyes, helping her to navigate routes and avoid everyday obstacles and hazards.

But he also has the added responsibility of making sure she has a guaranteed alert of an oncoming seizure.

These two role combined can be extremely demanding - on both dog and owner.

Wolfy and his owner Toni are a unique partnership, as Toni’s health needs are complex. She has had severe epilepsy for 27 years, and prior to having her first seizure alert dog, Rupert, trained by Support Dogs in 1995, was having 12 major and 40 minor seizures a week.

Toni has been registered blind since the birth of her second child 13 years ago, after suffering from retinal bleeding during labour.

Ajay, her seizure alert dog at that time, received some training from Guide Dogs to help with Toni’s decreasing vision, but when he needed to retire early, the search began for the right dog to become the world’s first-ever dual-trained seizure alert/guide dog. 

Hetty a Golden Retriever Labrador cross, continued the good work of Toni’s previous three dogs. She was an extremely diligent and resilient dog, always up for anything that life threw at them, and enabled the mother-of-two to continue with an active and fulfilling life.

Hetty worked for seven years and with retirement looming, the search was on for a successor. Toni feared she would never find another dog who had the special qualities to fulfil two such demanding roles. That was until she was introduced her to Wolfy.  The gentle giant bounded into Hetty’s harness with a strong, reassuring presence, and he and Toni have already formed a strong bond.

“It’s obvious that a dual assistance dog has to be very special,” says Toni, aged 50. “I am very physically active and walk 10-15 miles every day so needed a dog above and beyond. It also needed to be the kind of driven, diligent dog that could also detect seizures any time, day or night.

“To do the two jobs together can be very mentally demanding. The dog is not just looking out for obstacles but also for signs of seizures – it has to be at the top of its game.”

Happily, although Toni describes her new canine carer as a ‘scallywag, a fruit loop, and a bit of a loony with a sock fetish’, Wolfy has proven himself to the ultimate professional pooch. He alerts Toni exactly 41 minutes before a major seizure by wiping his nose on her right hand, and also gives a 15 minute warning of a minor seizure.

Importantly he also gets on well with her previous dogs: Hetty, Ajay, now blind and deaf and aged 14, but still part of the family and acknowledged leader of the pack, and Merlin, her daughter’s retired autism assistance dog.

Wolfy was a bit of a handful as a youngster,  but the intensive work the training teams put into him, has paid off and Toni thinks the world of him and the reassurance he provides.

She says: “Last New Year when I hadn’t had Wolfy very long, I was ill in bed for two days. Despite the fact that he is a very energetic mischievous dog and there were three dogs downstairs for him to play with, he stayed with me the whole time, draped on top of me like a blanket. I found that really reassuring. Even though I can’t see him I am always aware of where he is.”

As a woman who is both blind and has epilepsy and who also leads a busy life, that reassurance is what she needs.

Despite still having two to three major seizures a week, Toni also regularly goes to London to give talks on behalf of Guide Dogs and Support Dogs, walks regularly in the countryside around her home near Tunbridge Wells, and goes horse-riding. Both of Toni’s daughters, Mimi 13, and 19-year-old Grace have autism, and Toni also works as an office manager.

Thanks to her very special dogs, Toni’s family are reassured that she is in safe paws and they can go about their everyday lives without worrying about her.

"Wolfy and I have an amazing relationship, and we all love him - he is a real family dog,” says Toni. “He’s very cuddly and is always aware if someone needs a head rest and a hug. Most importantly, the specialist training that Wolfy has received enables me to be independent and be the wife and mother that I want and need to be.” 

Toni has been involved with Support Dogs for more than half her life, and was a trustee of the charity for 12 years. She remembers only too clearly what life was like before her assistance dogs.

“I didn’t go out because I was scared that I would have seizure. I didn’t go up or downstairs without help, and I was too scared to use the cooker or kettle. I existed but didn’t have a life,” she says.“All that change when I found Support Dogs.

"Over the past 25 years life without my assistance dogs would have been intolerable. I’m massively grateful for all my dogs, including my lovely Wolfy.”