The Woodwards are facing eviction from their Upper East Side New York apartment, because their family pet barks too much and too loud, or so says the building’s co-op board. However, the family is contesting this claim, saying their dog Olivia is essential to one of their family member’s health.
Thirty-two-year-old Elizabeth Woodward suffers from a rare disease called mast cell activation syndrome, and the canine alerts her by barking and jumping on her whenever Woodward is prone to an attack. The problem is that Olivia has not been certified as a therapy dog, and the building’s board just thinks the pet’s barks are irritating.
Elizabeth’s illness can attack at any time and when it does, her blood pressure spikes, her hear rate accelerates, she gets dizzy and faints, but Olivia can sense whenever her owner is about to feel sick and barks until Elizabeth lays down.
Harriet Woodward, Elizabeth’s mother, says the therapeutic dog is a Godsend. Since they got the dog three years ago, dealing with their daughter’s illness has been a lot easier.
“Sometimes, Elizabeth is eating something that we think is fine, but Olivia knows better,” Harriet told the NY Daily News. “She barks at her and then jumps up and pushes the food away.”
Andrew Woodward, Elizabeth’s brother, said that at the beginning they though the dog’s actions and his sister’s attacks were simple coincidence, “but then it happens again and again, and you’re like, ‘wait a minute, there’s really something happening here.'”
The family has been living in the E. 86th Street apartment for 25 years and they are ready to pack their bags if they are forced out.
“If we lose Olivia, we lose Elizabeth,” said Harriet. “They have to be together.”
There is a legal battle over this matter right now and the Woodwards have said they rather be homeless than dogless.