The amazing alarm-clock dog who helps narcoleptic owner live a normal life by waking her several times a day
Annick suffers up to six sleep attacks a day and never knows when she will drop offThe 35-year-old couldn't live an independent life and relied on parental supervisionDoctor suggested training a dog to wake Annick when she nodded off during the dayAfter one year's training Idefix will now nip her ankles and ears for up to half an hour to rouse Annick

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UPDATED:

14:26 GMT, 27 December 2012

A woman with narcolepsy who suffers up to six sleep attacks a day has had her life transformed by a very special dog.

Annick, 35, from Belgium, never knows when she will drop off. She slept up to 16 hours a day and needed careful supervision from her parents.

But she has been given a new lease of life thanks to the arrival of a little white dog called Idefix. The five-year-old mongrel is trained to wake her by nipping her ankles or ears at train and bus stops or when he hears an alarm.

Annick and Idefix

New lease of life: Idefix has been trained to nip gently at Annick's ankles and ears if she suffers a sleep attack

Idefix wakes Annick

Idefix wakes Annick

Wakey wakey! Idefix can spend up to half an hour rousing his narcoleptic owner

Dr Olivier Le Bon from Tivoli
Hospital in La Louvire, who came up with the novel solution, told Mail
Online: 'Annick couldn't do simple routine tasks such as ironing or
cooking because it was too dangerous if she fell asleep.

WHAT IS NARCOLEPSY

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological condition producing disruption to
the normal sleep pattern.

This produces excessive daytime sleepiness that can prove impossible to resist.

They may therefore nap during normal activities such as eating and talking.

It affects around one in 4,000 people and usually develops during adolescence.

The precise cause is unknown though the neurotransmitter orexin is thought to be involved.

There is no known cure. Scheduled naps and exercise can help ease symptoms. Stimulants can be prescribed but have significant side-effects.

'She is now able to move around the city, meet friends, arrive at appointments on time, cook and go for walks.'

It is the first time a dog has ever been trained as an assistance dog for someone with a sleep disorder.

However,
the road to creating a successful pairing was not a smooth one. The
team were turned down by a number of animal charities until one called
'Coeur a coeur' agreed to help. The charity trains hearing-assistant
dogs who are selected for their interest in sounds.

Sadly
their first trainee dog had to be turned down because he couldn't be
stopped from running after trams. Then charity trainer Chantal picked
out Idefix – so named after the dog in the cartoon Asterix.

'He had a slightly peculiar character,' Dr Le Bon said.

'He was rather isolated from the other dogs and was quite stubborn.'

Idefix took to the unusual training
straight away. Over the course of a year he learnt to wake up Annick on
hearing an alarm clock in the morning, even if this required half an
hour of gentle biting.

The five-year-old dog was then
trained to wake his owner up when he heard her mobile phone ring or when
a timer went off. Finally he learnt to wake her at the next bus, metro or tram stop if she had nodded off on public transport.

Quick learner: Idefix was trained to respond to various cues by waking up his owner

Quick learner: Idefix was trained to respond to various cues by waking up his owner

Idefix

Idefix

The five-year-old dog is the first trained to help someone with a sleep disorder

Annick's new canine companion has given her the independence she has long craved for.

She said: 'I had been handicapped by my condition for many years and now I feel like I have been given a second life.'

Meanwhile Dr Le Bon hopes more dogs will be trained to help narcoleptic patients who don't respond to medication.

'I have met several other patients with sleep disorders who are interested in our success, and the charity Couer a couer has agreed to do the training,' he said.

Annick's unique case has been reported in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.