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Unique Bond

Specially trained dog alerts student to looming medical issue 

Bethany Roderick, ’22, has a truly special bond with her dog, Rose, largely forged on the Bridgewater State University campus. 

Bethany experiences temporary spikes and drops in her heartrate that cause her to faint. Rose, a cardiac alert and response dog, detects smells that bodies emit before a change in heartrate, and alerts Bethany in sufficient time to find a safe place to lie down. 

“Without her there to tell me I’m going to faint beforehand I’m just going to drop to the floor,” said Bethany, a biology major who grew up in Halifax. 

Bethany trained Rose in residence and dining halls and on campus walkways and trails. A BSU Transit driver even drove a bus repeatedly around the quadrangle so Rose and Bethany could practice getting on and off.  

“BSU has been amazing about accommodations with her,” said Bethany, who estimates Rose is 99 percent accurate at alerting her. “I don’t think she would have been as successful as early as she was (without training on campus).” 

When she detects an impending change in heartrate, Rose, an almost 3-year-old black lab/bloodhound cross, touches Bethany with her paw or nose to indicate which way the heartrate will change. The episode only lasts a few minutes, until Bethany’s heart returns to a normal rhythm. Rose even helps by pushing on pressure points of her body.  

“She allows me to have a better environment for education. My anxiety is much less because I don’t have that fear of being hurt,” Bethany said. “I’m much calmer and able to generally enjoy my surroundings and school.” 

Her abnormal heartrate is caused by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a group of inherited disorders that affects the body’s connective tissues. When she was 16, Bethany began experiencing symptoms of the degenerative disease, which also affects her joints and eyesight. 

Bethany hopes to pursue a career training dogs. She praised her biology professors for providing an excellent understanding of how the body functions. She plans to seek a master’s degree in ethology, which is the study of animal behavior. 

Bethany dressed Rose up in costumes during October, in order to bring a bit of levity to campus. Even disguised as a chicken, Rose never wavered in her important duty. 

Rose also serves another important role. She’s helped Bethany forge friendships on campus. 

“Here, there is a group of friends for everyone,” Bethany said. “BSU opened up my eyes to what good friendships really are and having a good community really is.”  

There may, however, be no stronger connection than the one Bethany and Rose share.  

“Having her be so accurate gives me more independence,” Bethany said.  

Do you have a BSU story you'd like to share? Email stories@bridgew.edu.