Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We were mentioned in Oscar Halpert's Article about Don Hamer and his dog Jake.

Rescued dog watches over Mill Creek man's health

Dog may help alert him to oncoming seizure

By Oscar Halpert
Herald Writer

MILL CREEK — Don Hamer and his dog Jake are close — even inseparable.

What they give each other goes well beyond friendship, however.

Hamer depends on Jake, the golden retriever he says is trained to sense when he’s about to have an epileptic seizure.

A seizure, which is usually marked by temporary disorientation, can happen anytime, though Hamer says medications keep them under control.

Before Jake, Hamer says he lived in constant fear “that I would embarrass myself or lose my (driver’s) license.”

Now, he doesn’t worry much. He says he hasn’t felt a seizure come on since September, the last time Jake pulled at his sleeve to alert him.

“It has made my life so much less anxious. I’m not afraid to drive. I’m not afraid to be with my grandchildren,” he said. “It just took a load off me.”

Hamer and Jake are regulars at a park at Martha Lake, where Hamer volunteers part of the year cleaning up around the boat launch.

“It’s a very friendly park,” he said. “There’s a pair of nesting eagles, so if you’re out there in the morning you get a chance to see the eagles and go hunting.”

Hamer, a soft-spoken, wiry 66-year-old retiree, says he adopted Jake in Albany, N.Y., Hamer’s former home, when the dog was 4 weeks old in late 2005.

A friend told Hamer about a nearby adoption fair featuring dogs rescued from Gulf Coast states after Hurricane Katrina.

That 2005 storm displaced thousands of people and separated pets from their owners in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Arriving at the adoption event, Hamer says he saw hundreds of malnourished and sickly dogs packed into shipping containers.

He remembers seeing seven golden retriever pups and their mother. One of the pups was separated from the others.

“I saw his mother had pushed him out of the litter,” he said. “She wouldn’t let him nurse.”

He adopted the dog that day, nursed him to health and named him Jake.

Hamer says he’d heard about service dogs being trained to sense subtle signs of impending seizures.

With connections from a dog trainer friend, he attended a six-month training with Jake in a rented room at the University of Albany-State University of New York.

Jake was 10 months old when he started the training.

He proved to be a quick study.

Hamer says he’s had only one seizure since adopting Jake.

There is no consensus among scientists and dog trainers about what exactly dogs are sensing.

“There’s not real, 100 percent agreement among service dog training organizations about what dogs are cueing from,” said Beth Rivard, founder and director of the Prison Pet Project in Gig Harbor. “Some say it’s an aura, some say it’s a different scent.”

Her organization provides service dogs for people with disabilities and trains dogs to help epileptics after they have a seizure.

Jeffrey Cotellessa of the Awareness Canine Foundation in Cape Cod, Mass., trains service dogs for people with epilepsy and diabetes.

His wife, Marie, who founded the organization in 2004, has both conditions.

He says he’s convinced dogs can detect low blood sugar and epileptic seizures because he trained the dog that helps his wife.

To ensure a good match, Cotellessa says he prefers to introduce the person to the dog and see if they get along well. Sometimes, he says, the dog just isn’t interested in being with a certain person and that can hinder the effectiveness of his training.

“I can train a dog to do anything for a person if the dog picks that person,” he said.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder of the brain in which abnormal electrical charges lead to an electrical storm in the brain, said Dr. Shahin Hakimian, a neurologist with the University of Washington’s Epilepsy Center at Harborview Medical Center.

The disorder affects about 3 million Americans.

Medications can help reduce the severity of seizures but don’t make them go away, Hakimian said.

“A lot of people with epilepsy are disabled not by the seizure that happens but the prospect of going out in public,” he said.

Risk of death following a seizure is low, he added.

Maybe it’s the runt in Jake. One thing’s for sure, though: Jake doesn’t like to be away from Hamer.

Once, Hamer returned from a cross-country trip without Jake to find the dog had scraped the hair off two of of his legs and barked himself hoarse.

“When I came back, he didn’t even bark,” he said.

How Jake knows it’s time to alert him by biting his shirt sleeve or licking him isn’t important, Hamer says. Somehow, Jake knows something’s not right.

“He will go through a door to get to me if he smells it,” Hamer said.

Oscar Halpert: 425-339-3429; ohalpert@heraldnet.com.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Darren and Service Alert pup Tyson

Here is a testimonial from Denise about her son Darren and Service Alert pup Tyson.

At around 6:45 this morning I was take Service Alert pup Tyson to go outside and get
busy. He did not want to go outside, he walk to the bathroom down the hall. Tyson was scratching at the
door and I ask my son if he was ok. Well come to find out a minute later what he came out of the bathroom he told me did not feel good like he was going to pass out. I told Darren that he was not going to school today because of Tyson doing his job and for him telling me how he felt.

Darren and Tyson went back to bed but Tyson got on the bed and sniffed his head to make sure he was fine.
Tyson is a Service Alert pup for Epilepsy and I am so happy we have him.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Welcome to the Awareness K-9 Foundation Blog Page...

Our Mission is to provide a safer more secure life with people suffering with Type 1 Brittle Diabetes and/or Epilepsy with the use of our Service Alert Dogs.
Here is Colby, my Service Alert Dog. My name is Marie and I have Type 1 Brittle Diabetes and also Epilepsy. I am the founder of the Awareness K-9 Foundation. The reason for starting the foundation was that not only did I need help, so did my husband. I have learned through my husband Jeff, that taking care of a person with my ailments can be extremely stressful for him, our families and loved ones. Service Alert Dogs are potential life savers. Colby alerts when my sugars are off, also if I'm about to have a seizure. These alerts can save my life.
Please visit our website for more information - http://awarenessk9foundation.org/ and join our yahoo group Service Alert Dogs @ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/servicealertdogs/