Last weekend we met with a women from our church who, for half of her life, has dealt with similar fainting issues to our daughter’s (recap in next paragraph). R. has a service dog to detect her coming faints and give her time to get safe before loosing consciousness. We visited R.’s house for about two hours. Half an hour after we got there, the dog got frantic and rushed up to our girl, licking her face incessantly. Within a minute of this sustained behavior, our girl fainted! It was astounding watching this dog exhibit her God-given perception to know our daughter was about to go down!
Our 15-year-old has fainted about 30 times in the past three months. We are headed to another out-of-state hospital in a few weeks and could be there anywhere from about 3 days to 3 weeks. We have a theory, but are headed to a top autonomic specialist to try and get this officially figured out, since, so far, she has been through three local hospitals plus two really large research hospitals in the next state over, all without clear answers nor help.
If God wills to open a HUGE door that only He could, we also desire to take our 19-year-old for evaluation by the same doctor. Our son too has been quite ill over the past month, unable to attend almost any school, needing to resign from his job, and so fatigued he is unable to walk from bedroom to kitchen or drive half a mile! We are working with the hospital to try to get a last-minute cancellation spot, but know that the flight itself has the potential to further damage his health, so we are asking God to do what is very best and safest for him.
We’ve spent the week researching various kinds of service dogs, along with the added twist of severe dog allergies throughout the family.
We think we have narrowed down our preferred dog breed to one of a few kinds of Doodles (half Poodles). We are looking for a medium, or standard (huge) size, to be able to physically protect our girl. And the dog needs to be 2nd generation (grandparents are one dog such as a Retriever and one Poodle, while it seem that parents are Both 1st generation Doodles or a Doodle and a Poodle).
Poodles are hypo-allergenic (because they have hair rather than fur and shed little) and are highly intelligent dogs. In and of themselves, Poodles don’t tend to be easily trained, thus aren’t the best candidates as service dogs.
Mixed with a Golden Retriever (for a Golden Doodle), a Labrador Retriever (Labradoodle), or any one of several other breeds, these half Poodles maintain high intelligence levels, while taking on the traits of easy train-ability found in their Retriever parents. Doodles make ideal service dog candidates and, by second generation (some breeds of Doodle, bred back with Poodle), become hypo-allergenic.
Faint-detection cannot be taught or trained. A dog either has it or it doesn’t. In our single week of research, it seems that of these “ideal candidate” Doodle dogs, only an estimated 25%-40% are born with an innate ability to warn of a pending medical event. Most studies seems to have been done on seizure- or diabetic-detection dogs. Syncope (fainting)-detection dogs, through formal services, take 2-4 years and between $20,00-50,000, to obtain.
Because we really can’t afford to wait for (or the cost of) a formally certified dog, we are visiting humane shelters, pounds, and pet stores. The dog that literally has been a life-saver to our new friend R., who knew when Ruth was about to faint, was from the humane society!
Yesterday we spent half an hour in a pet store with a 2nd generation Labradoodle puppy that was adorable, but when Ruth fainted (pretty much a daily occurrence right now) there, it did nothing dramatic to clearly indicate a coming faint, so we will keep looking. Perhaps the dog was too young to differentiate spastic puppy behavior from faint-alert. Before we spend $3,000 on a designer dog, we have got to know it can identify her faints!
Once we find that dog, we can start the lengthy and pricey process of formal certification training that would allow her to take him in public places like her school. Even having a dog like this just in our home will be a huge blessing, but once service training is initiated and the dog can accompany her everywhere, we hope to significantly cut down on faint-related injuries (seven Emergency Rooms, with five ambulance rides, since this all stated just 3 1/2 months back).