Staffie breed deserves respect for service as assistance dogs says seizure sufferer

He will lay down his life in an attempt to keep his master safe and now one Pilton dog owner is determined to show the world the true heart of a misunderstood breed.
James Bjorkly and Eko, a Staffie assistance dog.James Bjorkly and Eko, a Staffie assistance dog.
James Bjorkly and Eko, a Staffie assistance dog.

James Bjorkly, 49, suffered a horrific fall which left him with an inoperable blood clot in his brain.

It means seizures can strike at any time – sometimes three a day.

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But his life changed for the better when the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home matched him with Staffordshire Bull Terrier Eko.

James then used money he had been left by his late mother to get Eko trained as an assistance dog.

Now he said Eko, who is five years old and been with him for two years, will literally stand in the way of traffic to make sure James is safe when he’s having a seizure.

“I treat him basically like a son,” James admitted. “I do treat him more like a child than a dog but he is amazing.

“If I have a seizure when crossing a busy road, he will put his own life at risk and stand in front of the cars to stop them – he’ll bark to encourage people to stay away.

“I want the world to know that just because he is a Staffie he is not dangerous and they make amazing assistance dogs – I think he must be the only one in Edinburgh.”

When James has a seizure, Eko shuffles obstacles out of his way so he doesn’t injure himself and lies under his head “as a pillow”.

James explained: “I have a system in my flat where if I fall and have a bad seizure he presses a sensor pad which calls directly to an emergency call centre.

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“Eko barks and the staff know to contact the paramedics services who have a key.”

James said when Eko is “off duty” he is a totally different dog.

“He loves to run around and catch sticks. He’s very friendly, playful and loves people. He’s a completely different dog.

“Because when he’s working he’s very professional.”

“I just want everyone to know how great staffies are particularly as assistance dogs.

“Labradors aren’t as strong – Eko is strong enough to be able to roll me over if I need to be in the recovery position.”

CEO of Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home Howard Bridges said: “Eko came into the Home in April 2015 when he was picked up by Scottish police straying in Edinburgh.

“Our team could immediately see what an amazing character he was and when James walked through our door, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

“It’s always fantastic for us hear stories of the incredible things that some of our rescue pets, particularly staffies, go on to do after leaving us – Eko’s case is an impressive example of this.

“We know staffies to be highly loyal and trainable dogs and much-loved pets, so we hope that more people will consider rehoming one when they are looking for a new pet.”

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