A PET dog has been credited with saving a Scots model and her top footballer boyfriend from death by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Heather Weir and former Rangers star Jamie Ness could not understand why their normally active golden labrador, Alfie, wanted to sleep all day.
Investigations eventually revealed that the couple’s Aga cooker was leaking lethal carbon monoxide gas (CO) which could have killed them.
One-year-old Alfie was sleepy because he was being poisoned by the colourless, odourless gas.
Heather, 22, said: “Without his strange behaviour Jamie and I would have went months not realizing what was leaking into our home.
“I love him so much and I’m so thankful to have such a wonderful companion – he saved our life.”
Heather, originally from Troon, South Ayrshire, lives in Cheshire with Stoke City midfielder Jamie, 21. They moved from Glasgow to their new home in July this year after Jamie signed for the English Premiership club.
After noticing a strange smell, she had the stove checked and discovered it had been serviced and passed that month.
“But within the past four weeks, Alfie was sleeping all day. He had stopped playing with his toys and was just very lethargic.
After returning from a family trip to the United States, Heather noticed Alfie was getting worse.
She said: “He just wasn’t right at all. Usually Alfie would be up and down like a yo-yo pestering me to play but instead, he went up to our room and slept for five hours.
Heather experienced a few brief moments of sickness and Jamie did not show any symptoms at all.
Determined to get the bottom of Alfie’s strange behaviour, she called an engineer out to the home who immediately realised what was happening.
He told the couple that if Heather had not picked up on Alfie’s sickness their exposure to the carbon monoxide leaking from the stove “could have been fatal”.
“I explained about Alfie and myself and he was so genuinely concerned and happy that he’d discovered this for us before it could have been fatal.
“He explained that the smell of gas was not nearly as dangerous as the issue with the leak of carbon monoxide.
“I cannot believe how lucky we are – had we not caught this when we did, it could have been fatal to us all.
“I don’t know what I’d do without Alfie – he makes our house a home.”
She added: “Within two days of the problem being solved Alfie is back to his usual self.”
Carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of around 50 people a year in the UK.
Stephanie Trotter OBE, president and director of CO-Gas Safety who raise awareness and publish data of CO deaths and accidents, said that carbon monoxide prevention needs a “belt and braces” approach.
She said: “Firstly, well done to the dog and well done to the girl.
“Often our dogs, cats and other pets are more susceptible to the gas because of their smaller lungs and weight.
“That’s why miners used to take canaries down the mines – if they stopped singing you knew to get out because there was CO present.
“We encourage all homes to open windows for ventilation, have their chimneys regularly swept and install detectors – it really has to be a belt and braces approach to keeping an eye on CO.”
The RSPCA said pet owners should be more aware of their pets’ behaviour.
A spokesman said: “This demonstrates the importance of pet owners being aware of their pet’s normal behaviour and of being observant.
“If they do notice any change in their pet’s behaviour it’s important to seek advice from their vet as it could be a sign that their pet is suffering from a medical problem.”
Paul Johnston, chief executive of Gas Safe Register, commented: “The couple involved in this incident had a lucky escape, but tragically others are not always so fortunate.
“Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it and without an adequate supply of fresh air, it can kill quickly.
“The symptoms are also very similar to flu, which at this time of year is worrying if people get the two confused.
Alfie’s poison scare comes at the same time the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Gas Safe Charity extended a carbon monoxide awareness programme to Scotland.
Around 10,000 families in the UK will benefit from receiving a free CO detector aiming to prevent any dangerous leaks.
Jennifer Henderson, home safety officer for RoSPA in Scotland, said: “It is important to equip yourself with the knowledge of what carbon monoxide poisoning is, why it is dangerous and how to prevent it.
“The Be Gas Safe programme provides organisations with a valuable opportunity to help vulnerable clients gain access to information and advice that has the potential to save lives.”