Alyssa, aged 11, lost her eyesight at the age of four and started having epileptic seizures up to 20 times per day.
After many nights when her family accompanied the young girl in her room out of fear that something might happen and they wouldn’t even know it, Alyssa got a new companion, Labrador Flint.
Flint is a service dog trained primarily to sniff out seizures before they happen and alert the girl’s family to take measures timely and accordingly. Flint also cares for Alyssa, guiding her in their walks and providing so much needed freedom.
Flint was trained by specialists at 4 Paws for Ability, a unique organization that goes beyond the conventional rule that one must be at least 16 of age in order to receive a service dog. Although the price for one of the canines trained to save lives or at the least make them more comfortable is around 15,000 dollars for families, acquiring one is maybe the best investment in therapy of any kind.
4 Paws spends roughly 22,000 dollars for the breeding and training of service dogs. Although the mechanism that allows them to detect seizures is yet unknown, it is proven as a certainty that they can smell chemical changes in the body previous to a seizure for instance and signal it by barking, drawing quick response from owners.
Karen Shirk, owner of the non-profit 4 Paws for Ability has a service dog of her own. Piper is there to help with her muscular dystrophy, having saved her life numerous times due to quick alerting.
For those cases where patients are suffering from utterly debilitating conditions, service dogs are a beacon of hope. Most time, seizures of any type render the patient unable to call 911 or ask for help. They don’t know when it is going to happen or how often. The likes of Flint and Piper play such an invaluable role in prevention and immediate response.
Since the law provides that a child is not equipped to handle a dog, particularly in public situations, 4 Paws took it upon themselves to train to adult caregivers that are usually around those under the age of 16. This is the only way those like Alyssa can receive a new friend that most often saves their life.
Service dogs can provide assistance not only to those suffering from seizure, but they have been tried out as a therapeutic means for children presenting autism, as well as a wider variety of conditions.
More research should ensue in the field to understand how the symbiotic relationship works and how it can act as a therapy. For now, we should be thankful non-profits who offer service dogs to those in need exist.
Image Source: autismspeaks.org