Protective Border Collie's remarkable intuition 

When Jessica Bean wakes in the night gasping for breath, her Border Collie Perra knows what to do. When Jess develops an infection, Perra is often the first one to detect it. This is Jess’s story about the incredible bond she holds with her protective pooch. 

People say you don’t choose your pets, they choose you - and while that sounds like an awful cliché, it was certainly the case for me and my beloved Border Collie, Perra. 

The first time we met, she had barely opened her eyes. As a 19-year-old university student living in a rental property, I had no intention of adopting a pet. However, when I put the tiny puppy back with her siblings she blindly followed me to the door, where she stood making funny squeaking sounds. She had my heart. 

My parents insisted that getting a puppy at this point in my life was an extremely poor choice. Although I have to admit that some planning around the logistics of pet ownership may have saved us all some stress, taking that tiny puppy home was the best decision I ever made. 

The following year, my world was turned upside down. The genetic condition I had lived with since birth, cystic fibrosis, caused a rapid decline in my health. Things that had previously brought meaning and joy to my life became difficult, and I spent many long days at home alone.

It was during this time that Perra (Ra for short) became my wonder dog. Not only was she the best company, as she grew, she also became increasingly attuned to my needs. 

Jessica Bean who has cystic fibrosis and her dog on the couch
Ra never had formal training as an assistance dog, however, when I was sleeping I would feel a cold nose gently press against my cheek a few times throughout the night. As my health continued to decline, there were nights when I would wake gasping for breath—and Ra learnt that urgently licking my husband’s face was the quickest way to wake him for help. 

She would sit with me during long hours of treatments and monitor every fragile movement I made around the house. Ra often knew before I did when an infection was coming on. Despite being a high-energy working dog, Ra would patiently encourage me on our slow walks around the block. 

The times when I was hospitalised were tough on both of us. As a ‘frequent flyer’ on the hospital ward, the nurses got to know me and how much I missed my dear dog. They found creative ways to bypass hospital policy (and the duty manager). Ra sure was an odd-shaped ‘baby’ draped in blankets and carried in my husband’s arms—but knowing she was waiting for me was always the best incentive to get through the grueling hospital treatment regimes. 

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While today I am fortunate to enjoy more stability in my health, my furry best friend is rarely far from my side. Together we have lived in six homes and two states, and enjoyed holidays around Australia together.

She even flew to Tasmania when my husband and I got married. Ra is still the best personal trainer I’ve found to help keep my lungs as healthy as possible, and she’s never bothered by the noisy medical devices or strange-smelling medications that are our normal. 

Parents of children with chronic illness often come to me with questions about adding a pet to their family. Living with a chronic lung disease has meant taking a few extra precautions as a pet owner, but in consultation with my doctors I quickly realised that, in my case, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Photo by Emma Louise Newby

Jessica Bean with her dog Perra
Ra is a loyal friend and constant companion. She never fails to make me smile, even on the most difficult of days, and her enthusiasm for life is second to none. Being her owner has taught me about commitment and routine - both of which are critical for my health. 

To me, health isn’t only about the things I do to keep myself physically well, but also the things that make my life meaningful. So, like any other member of the family, Ra is an important part of my healthcare team. 

Jessica and Perra feature in a gorgeous new book, supported by Bupa Pet Insurance, called Happiness is Dog Shaped. It’s filled with beautiful images and stories of special dogs and their owners. You can order a copy of the book here

If you’ve got a protective pet, return the love and protect your pet with Bupa Pet Insurance
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