PB And Rock'O

 |  Feb 27th 2009  |   3 Contributions


Here's a new twist, a service dog that detects peanuts. An eight-year-old girl from Monument, CO is deathly allergic to peanuts. So much so, that when a peanut shell got stuck in her sandal it badly burned her skin. She broke out in hives and struggled to breathe.

Unless you have a child who is allergic to peanuts you would never believe all the products that contain, or may contain, them. Every time your child leaves the house their life is at risk. Now that may all change, Riley Mers has just received a very special dog who has been trained to detect the presence of peanuts. Rock'O is a Portuguese Water Dog, who received six months of training.

The girl received her dog on Sunday, Rock'O will go wherever she does, alerting her to the presence of peanuts. Peanuts are used in far more ways than providing spread for a sandwich or a salty snack, and her allergy is sensitive enough for the most minuscule exposures to cause problems. Some potting soils, for example, contain peanut shells as filler. Riley's parents learned that the hard way when the girl, as a toddler, had an allergic reaction as they were potting plants.

That's meant a life where going to a friend's house requires an extensive sweep of the home and a crash course for the parents. She attends a few classes at Kilmer Elementary School, in Lewis-Palmer School District 38, but gets most of her education online. The school does not serve peanut butter, but a child bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school could create a danger for Riley.

Such situations won't change, but Rock'O will provide "long-range radar" for Riley, said her dad, Brett Mers. The dog might stop her from going into a room if it smells peanuts.

The cost to train a dog like this does not come cheap, approximately $10,000. Rock'O was trained at the Florida Canine Academy by Master Trainer Bill Whitstine, who generously donated his services.

Riley's parents, Brett and Sherry, are hoping to provide more than just their daughter with such a dog. At the same time Rock'O was being trained, they were organizing Angel Service Dogs Inc.. Formed on Feb. 6, according to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, the business would like to provide allergy-detecting and seizure-detecting dogs at reduced costs and eventually for free.

One concern is that people will rush to get a dog before it's fully trained. In this type of situation, a dog that is not properly trained can result in severe, or even deadly consequences.

What a great story, best of luck to Riley and Rock'O. Thanks to Veronica for barking this story to me.

*Pic courtesy Christian Murdock/ The Gazette

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