Pictured: Emily and Barna. Credit: Jennie Macare.

Today marks the biggest event on the dog calendar, Crufts: The world’s greatest dog show. And with any big show, there is always a special behind the scenes story. Emily and Barna’s is one of those. But before you read on, a warning, this one contains excessive amounts of warm fuzzies.

‘A dog is a man’s best friend.’

But for 20-year-old Emily Cook, her dog is so much more than that. She says, her boy Barna, has changed her life.

In January 2013, Emily, from Nottingham, started collapsing without warning due to a complex neurological condition. As a result, Emily can end up in hospital and lose vital functions like eyesight, speech, hearing and the ability to walk.

“Out of nowhere, Barna came sprinting into the kitchen, sat in front of me and had a really intense stare and then a single bark. Then, 5 minutes later, I was unconscious”
Emily Cook, Barna’s owner 

After she was diagnosed, Emily had to leave school, give up her dream of becoming a Doctor and she couldn’t leave the house in fear of collapsing. Her condition means she can remain unconscious from anywhere between 30 minutes to three and a half hours.

Emily said “I had to leave the house with people who knew what they were doing and wouldn’t panic or freak out if I were to collapse.”

In 2016, Emily’s family decided to get an 8-week-old Hungarian Vizsla puppy. Little did they know that 6 months later, this puppy would do something extraordinary.

Credit: Jennie Macare.

Emily explained “I was at my Grandparents’ house, Barna was in the lounge and I was in the kitchen.”

“Out of nowhere Barna came sprinting into the kitchen, sat in front of me and had a really intense stare and then a single bark.”

“Then, 5 minutes later I was unconscious.”

Up until that point, Barna hadn’t barked as it’s not in the breed’s nature.

That’s when Emily and her family realised Barna was no ordinary dog. After finding out about Medical Detection Dogs during a visit to Crufts, they contacted the charity and this is where Barna and Emily trained to became an accredited partnership.

Hungarian Vizslas are known for their stamina and athleticism but are not usually regarded as assistance dogs. However, because of Barna’s natural ability to sense that Emily could collapse, the charity were willing to work with them.

Audio: Gemma Butlin works for the charity Medical Detection Dogs.

Barna is trained to alert Emily via a single bark exactly five minutes before her collapse, allowing her to get to a safe space.

Thanks to Barna, Emily’s now able to leave the house, socialise, and work as a Trainee Natural Historian and Taxidermist at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham.

Watch: Sarah Burhouse says Emily and Barna have slotted perfectly into the team at Wollaton Hall.

Emily added “Barna has completely changed my life for the better.”


-Medical Detection Dogs are trained to detect the odour of human disease and complex medical conditions.
-Dogs are trained using scent and breath samples collected from the owner or client when they are experiencing an episode.
-To qualify as a partnership, the dog has to achieve an alerting accuracy of 90% or above, with a false positive rate of 10% or less.
-Medical Detection Dogs is a charity reliant on donations and receives no government funding.
-To sponsor a dog or donate, please click here.