Published: June 1, 2014
Toby, an 18-month-old standard poodle, is a good-looking dog, but he's no show dog.
Even at a price of $12,500, he will be more than a pet for Royal Canadian Air Force Master Cpl. Roy Dwyer and his family.
He's still worth the money.
Trained as a seizure dog by Sherlock Obedience and Assistance Dog Training in Lincoln, Neb., Toby will potentially be a lifesaver for the Dwyer family.
Assigned to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Dwyer, wife, Kim, and two sons Jeremy, 11, and Noah, 9, from St. Johns, Newfoundland, moved to Colorado two years ago with great expectations for travel, hiking and other outdoor activities.
A slower pace of life became necessary one morning in July when the parents found Jeremy on the bathroom floor unconscious as a result of a seizure. Jeremy had two more seizures that day and spent several days at Children's Hospital in Denver where he was diagnosed with epilepsy.
"Jeremy was on the swim team at VillaSport; he was playing soccer at Peterson, and it all came to a stop when the epilepsy started. Fatigue is a real problem for him," Dwyer said.
Dwyer said his greatest fear is that the majority of Jeremy's seizures come in his sleep creating the risk of a fatal complication known as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. Among other life-saving tasks, Toby will sleep with Jeremy to guard against that and potentially save his life.
"We will have all these alarm buttons throughout the house, and Toby will be able to nose it, which will set off an alarm that lets us know Jeremy is having a seizure," Dwyer said. "He will be able to turn on lights in Jeremy's room. And he can brace Jeremy on his side so he is in a good position to have his seizure and not hurt himself."
Dwyer said $12,500 is a good price for a well-trained service animal and he's grateful for the Chelsea Hutchison Foundation in Littleton, which helped him find the dog. He said he expects Toby and his trainer to begin working with the family at their home in Colorado Springs by the end of July.
But paying for the pooch is problematic.
As of May 16, the Dwyer family's fundraising campaign on Fundrazr.com to help pay for Toby has earned almost $5,000, and there are several other fundraising events planned.
Dwyer said Jeremy is excited about getting Toby and in spite of experiencing medical complications, Jeremy remains very optimistic.
In a school essay he wrote in February, Jeremy wrote, "I know what to do, and what not to do, and I'm not scared. I have epilepsy, but I don't let it get me down."