Georgia Golden Retriever Mako Watches Boy for Epileptic Seizures, Gives Boy "Whole New Life"

 |  Sep 24th 2007  |   0 Contributions

Thanks to CBS News for this article.

Seizure-Sensing Dogs Help Patients Cope
Canines Can Fetch Medication, Turn Off Lights And Warn When A Seizure Is Coming

ALPHARETTA, Ga., Sept. 20, 2007

(CBS) Mako is more than Eli Zabawa's new Golden Retriever. CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports that Mako's leash is now Eli's lifeline.

The 11-year-old has muscular dystrophy and epileptic seizures that his parents say scare him.

"He doesn't want to be left alone," said his mother, Nicole.

"Right," said his father, Sean. "He wants to have someone there."

That's where Mako comes in -- and a non-profit group outside Atlanta called Canine Assistants. It raises puppies, then turns them into seizure response dogs.

The dogs learn tasks like turning lights on and off. They also fetch medication, stand guard and even bark for help.

Canine Assistants donates 40 trained dogs a year to seizure patients. Sponsors pay the tab: more than $18,000 per dog.

Most remarkably, these dogs may actually predict a seizure's about to happen.

Jennifer Arnold, the founder of Canine Assistants, says this canine intuition is undeniable.

"Dogs definitely can anticipate the onset of seizures," she said. "About 88 percent of the dogs we place develop the ability to anticipate onset, within the first year after placement."

No one knows how these dogs sense it and some seizure experts scoff at the very idea of it. But hundreds of people who have seizures say their dog's intuition is both real and lifesaving."

At 14, Mitch Petersen went from an athlete to someone with no control of his body.

"I've fallen down flights of stairs. I've broken bones under my face," he said.

Since Mitch got London two years, the dog has sensed his seizures at least a half dozen times, and pushed him down to safety.

"When I would try to get up, he would still force me to sit down," Petersen said.

At 22, Mitch now works in a library and lives on his own -- unthinkable before London.

And Mitch's mother, Vanya, is so grateful.

"I see him with London and London has given him a whole new life," she said.

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