By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
Former Staff Sgt. Jason North spent a good while laying face-down next to a fire ant hill before he got serious about getting a service dog to help with his seizure disorder.
"They bit all up my arm and I had to go to the hospital to get creme," said North, 26, of the incident two years ago at Fort Hood. "Nobody came, and it happened like that a lot. I used to fall all over the place. The neighbors would find me in the front yard."
The longtime soldier developed his disorder following a 2008 Humvee accident during a deployment to Iraq with the then-3rd Cavalry Regiment, and couldn't control when or where he'd be struck by a grand mal seizure. Because his safety increasingly was in jeopardy - particularly when his wife was at work - North got in touch with Patriot Paws, an Assistance Dog International-accredited service dog organization based in Rockwall.
President and founder Lori Stevens said that North's dog, Parole (who was trained by female inmates at the Texas Department of Correctional Justice in Gatesville), was the organization's first service dog. He's trained to try to sense seizures before their onset and to call for help when North is experiencing one.
North said his life has changed for the better since he got Parole two months ago.
"He'll nudge me and try to wake me up, or he'll go and get help," said North, adding that the family is installing a safety button in their home so Parole, a white Labrador retriever, can call an ambulance. "It just makes things a lot easier."
North said it's been an adjustment getting used to all the attention Parole draws in public. People want to pet the dog and ask him about his illness - even though North's own child is prohibited from petting Parole while he's working.
But the help and companionship is worth it, he said.
"I've never met an organization that's just so nice to give you something like that," he said of Patriot Paws. "I mean, I kind of knew what (getting Parole) would mean because they explain it to you, but once you go through the whole lifestyle, you understand what it is to have a companion be by you for it."