Robert Gill is terrified of living alone.
His anxiety stems not from being the victim of assault or robbery, although Gill would argue his illness inflicts a similar psychological toll.
Instead, it’s Gill’s epilepsy, a seizure-inducing brain disease, that shattered his sense of security four years ago and continues to prevent him from everyday considerations like taking a secluded vacation or managing a high-stress job.
“The first time I had a seizure, the hospital put me into an induced coma for three weeks to let my brain relax,” he says.
Lately, the seizures have been occurring monthly in addition to complications brought on from his multiple sclerosis.
Yet Gill, 40, does live alone, save for his two-year-old black Labrador, Naveed. She moved in last week, the 2,000th lifesaving guide dog trained by the Lions Foundation of Canada and the second dog gifted to Gill. His last canine companion, Starsky, retired two weeks ago.
Thanks to $25,000 in training from experts at the Lions Foundation’s facility in Oakville, Ont., Naveed is an expert in emergency response.
When Gill suffers a seizure, she immediately slaps a lifeline disc on the floor of his bachelor apartment and paramedics arrive within four minutes.
“She’s a response animal, so if I’m outside and have a seizure, she’ll sit beside me and bark until someone comes to help. And if I need the phone, she’ll come bring it to me,” he says.
Gill and Naveed spent nine days training together under supervision in Oakville before returning to Victoria last week. His voice carries the emotion of a man given a new lease on life as he praises the generosity of the Lions Foundation and its donors.
“They’ve given independence to 2,000 people at no charge,” he says. “I just have an enormous amount of appreciation, because I really do have independence because of what they’ve given me.”
The Lions Foundation began in 1985, training dog guides for people with visual disabilities. Since then, it has grown to train dog guides for people with hearing and physical disabilities, epilepsy, autism and diabetes. The foundation receives no government funding.