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Canine companion comes to aid of local woman
Edna Gilson
Edna Gilson claims that Pancakes constant barking woke her from what could have been a sleep apnea catastrophe. - photo by BROOKE BORBA / The Journal



Pancake, a Jack Russell Terrier and Chihuahua mix, may not look like much of a hero because of her small stature, but owner Edna Gilson claims the mix breed pup is an angel of God.

The retired Salvation Army representative was quietly sleeping in her home one day when the machine used to treat her sleep apnea suddenly shut off in the middle of the night, causing 70-year-old Gilson respiratory failure.

Pancake immediately started barking, despite living her whole life at their current residence without so much as a peep during the night. When Gilson still wouldn’t wake, Pancake began licking and barking near her face to get her attention.

“She knows she gets in trouble when she barks, especially at night,” said Gilson, who lives at the Turlock Silvercrest Senior Residence, a senior apartment complex without much noise. “It was about 4 a.m. when I finally got up. At first I was angry with Pancake, but then I could tell by her bark that there was something wrong.”

It didn’t take long for Gilson to realize that she was having trouble breathing through her mask, and quickly looked at the breathing machine, which had completely shut down.  Gilson stated that she checked to make sure the machine was working that night and found no irregularities before dozing off to sleep.

She immediately called Pacific Pulmonary Services before her oxygen level dropped below 60 percent, compared to the average 100 percent.

Gilson stated that the representative found it odd that her machine broke down considering it was a 2006 model, but ran through the check-by-check analysis. After further review, the two found that a loose tube was the cause of the problem.

“It kind of scared me,” said Gilson. “I very easily could have died that night. If it were not for Pancake, I may not even be where I am today.”

Pancake’s efforts were more than honorary. She not only saved Gilson’s life, but affected every life that Gilson touches.

“Edna has a heart of gold,” said optometrist Carole Sachs. “She has a garden that she tends to every day. She is very active in the Salvation Army and raises money for outreach programs. She uses a walker and carries oxygen around her at all times, but she is out there in her garden every minute making a difference.”

Gilson has been granted entrance to the Salvation Army’s garden under the direction of Major Debi Shrum, where she takes Pancake daily.

There, she has dedicated herself to feeding low-income families and those less fortunate, despite her deep decline in health. She attributes her strength to her companion, Pancake, who is with her nearly all of the time. Together, they hope to make a humble difference for the Turlock community.

 “I ask for nothing. This is not my garden. This is God’s garden. I’m just the caretaker,” said Gilson.

Other community members applaud Gilson’s work, and believe that her sincerity is just a key trait that makes her, and Pancake, valued members of the community.

“Honestly, it is all thanks to her dog that we still have Edna around today,” said Sachs. “Edna caters to the community, not herself, and that dog caters to Edna.”