It’s hard to believe a playful 80-pound black lab can bring such calm to a household.
But the peace of mind three-year-old Jake has brought to the Moore family of Sarnia is indisputable.
Kyrsten Moore, 16, was born with a rare brain disorder that triggers daily epileptic seizures. If no one is nearby she can easily hurt herself, and five seizures a night is not uncommon, says her mom Nicole.
Some last seconds and cause Kyrsten to suddenly jolt, bite her lip and bleed. Others are much more frightening and last as long as five minutes.
In Grade 8, the year before Jake came into Kyrsten’s life, nearly 1,100 seizures were recorded. Once Jake arrived, amazingly that number dropped to 187.
“I don’t have any medical evidence but I’m convinced that Jake relaxes Kyrsten, and when she’s calm she doesn’t have as many,” says her mom.
Jake was a gift from the Sunshine Foundation’s Sarnia chapter. Kyrsten had long wanted a black lab, especially one with a white chest patch. The Moores asked for a seizure response dog through a national service dog association.
But the family was denied because Kyrsten isn’t able to be the sole caregiver as required, said Nicole.
When the Sunshine Foundation, which grants wishes to children with disabilities, received Kyrsten’s request, the family was warned it take time to find a suitable dog.
“But two weeks later, the Sarnia and District Humane Society called to say a black stray was brought in that might work,” said Sunshine’s local president Marie Cebulski.
“We’ve been doing this for 25 years and this is one of the greatest dreams we’ve had because of the bond Jake has with Kyrsten,” she said.
Jake even has a white patch on his chest.
From the start, the dog slept in a kennel beside Kyrsten’s bed. As their connection crew, he naturally sought out help whenever she had a seizure.
“There’s a certain sweet smell like honey when she has a seizure and I think he smells it and comes to get us,” said Nicole. “I didn’t expect him to alert me without being trained, but we are blessed.”
“I just love him,” said Kyrsten, a Grade 10student at St. Patrick’s High School. “He relaxes me and I know he’ll go get mom and dad if I have seizures in the night.”
The family is still hoping a professional trainer can be found for Jake.
The Sarnia chapter of the Sunshine Foundation celebrates its 25th anniversary June 21 at Huron Oaks. To date, the volunteer organization has fulfilled 70 local dreams.
– Cathy Dobson