Tips for a safe Halloween with your dog(s)

by Sue on October 6, 2015

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It’s almost the spookiest night of the year and we recommend taking some common sense precautions this Halloween to keep your pet safe.

1. That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters not your dog. Chocolate in all forms, especially dark or baking chocolate, can be very dangerous for dogs. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol are deadly to dogs. If you do suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

2. Halloween decorations such as raw pumpkins and dried corn are considered to be nontoxic, but they may produce stomach upset in dogs who ingest them.

3. Wires and cords from electric decorations should be kept out of reach of your dog. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts, burns or a lethal electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do be cautious if you choose to add a candle. Dog can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire.

5. Please don’t put your dog in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (One of my dogs LOVES wearing things!). For dogs that do not like to wear things, however, wearing a costume may cause stress.

6. If you do dress up your dog, make sure the costume does not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe or bark. Take a closer look at your dog’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that they could choke on. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the day of. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, reconsider having them wear the costume.

7. Only the most social and well trained dogs should be allowed near the front door during trick-or-treating hours. This reduces the chances of a stranger getting bit or the dog darting outside and not returning when called.

8. Always make sure your dog has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increasing the chances that he or she will be returned to you. Also, it is preferable that the collar be a little loose on a dog. That way if the collar becomes hung up on something the dog can pull its head out rather than choking to death or getting hung. If you have a small dog, break away (sometimes called safety) collars for cats work great. Personally I prefer to not have my dogs wearing collars around the property purely for safety reasons as I own a farm. Mine only wear them when we go places. My dogs are chipped.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!


Traumatized Vietnam vet credits service dog with saving his life

by Sue on September 23, 2015

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At what point is anecdotal evidence so overwhelming that it matches or exceeds scientific discoveries?

Carol Borden, executive director and founder of Guardian Angels Medical Services of Williston, FL, says her non-profit has paired about two dozen service dogs with military veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since 2010. She says that in every instance the veteran has benefited. Other organizations echo the same experiences.

Ray Galmiche, 65, of Navarre, FL, served two and a half tours of duty in Vietnam. While in the combat zone, his PTSD symptoms were minimal, but they became increasing apparent after his retirement from the Army after 20 years of service. Among them were extreme nightmares accompanied by night sweats. Galmiche often suffered from sleep deprivation. When going out in public, which he rarely mustered the will to do, Galmiche felt overwhelmed and suffered panic attacks.

Even the simple act of driving a car became a challenge, and potentially dangerous. Galmiche’s wife realized this after he had a flashback while at the wheel. Ray had no idea where he was. His mind was on a jungle battlefield, re-living a firefight from years before. Luckily, no one was injured.

Galmiche concedes that he began to push away from his family. “I was basically giving up,” he says. “I just couldn’t stand it anymore.”

In desperation, not wanting to lose her husband, Ray’s wife pursued partnering him with a service dog. “I didn’t know or understand what a dog might to do help,” says Galmiche. “Besides, I didn’t think I deserved a dog.”

Ray was paired with a German Shepherd named Dazzle. He tried to push the pup away. But some dogs just don’t take no for an answer and Dazzle was determined to be Galmiche’s best friend. “I just didn’t have it in me, but Dazzle loved me anyway. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Ray recalls.

Galmiche didn’t understand why the nightmares and night sweats disappeared, and he was simultaneously annoyed that Dazzle might awaken him in the middle of the night. He soon realized the dog wasn’t being a pest; he was awakening Galmiche just as the horrible dreams began.

“Maybe it’s my body chemistry, but Dazzle doesn’t allow me to have those nightmares,” Galmiche said. Today, Ray can sleep through the night.

Although Galmiche still has panic attacks, they’re more infrequent and less severe. “I know Dazzle has my back,” he says. “And if I get anxious, he knows it. He puts his head on my leg and I pet him. I think he enjoys it. And I begin to relax.”

Galmiche says he sometimes thinks about a friend also diagnosed with PTSD who committed suicide. “If he’d had a (service) dog, maybe he would be alive today,” Ray says. “I wish the VA would have suggested a dog years ago. I don’t know what would have happened to me if it wasn’t for Dazzle.” Galmiche adds that it’s not too melodramatic to say that the service dog saved his life.

Galmiche is hardly alone. The stats are nearly overwhelming: There are 400,000 ex-soldiers currently in treatment for PTSD, according to the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), and among that population, rates of divorce, substance abuse and unemployment exceed those in the general population. Their suicide rate is off the map, with 32 to 39 attempts daily and about half that many succeeding.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a service dog dramatically lowers the suicide rate, even divorce numbers and chances of substance abuse among veterans with PTSD. With a four-legged partner, veterans don’t require as many (if any) drugs for symptoms related to PTSD. And veterans are able to find jobs. Most importantly, all this improves quality of life for veterans.There’s a significant savings to taxpayers.

Aware of this evidence, some members of Congress tasked the VA to demonstrate scientifically the effectiveness of pairing veterans with PTSD and their families with service dogs. Fewer than two dozen dogs were enrolled in the study (nowhere near the 230 dogs recommended for the research).

Recently, the study was abruptly suspended because of reported dog bites and a health problem with one dog, leaving members of Congress and organizations that train PTSD service dogs mystified. What’s more, the VA announced recently that it will no longer support service dogs paired with veterans diagnosed with PTSD (and instead only support dogs partnered with veterans with visible disabilities).

There’s little doubt more scientific study would be helpful. Meanwhile, as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) pointed out in an email to this reporter, as the wars wind down, more soldiers are returning home diagnosed with PSTD than ever before.

To ignore an option that’s clearly helpful to many soldiers is, in fact, at odds with the VA’s own mission: “To serve America’s veterans and their families with dignity and compassion and to be their principal advocate in ensuring that they receive the care, support, and recognition earned in service to this Nation.”

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Veteran With PTSD Finds Service Dog Stolen in December

by Sue on September 9, 2015

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A California Marine veteran whose service dog was stolen from her San Diego-area home in December has found her beloved pooch, thousands of miles away in a small Texas town.

Alexandra Melnick’s dog, Kai, disappeared from her Vista home on on Dec. 10 last year. San Diego Sheriff’s officials say an unknown suspect entered Melnick’s property and took the dog from a secured backyard.

Kai is a 1-year-old, tri-colored German Shepherd that is trained and certified as a service animal. The dog has a microchip that helps identify him.
Following Kai’s disappearance, Melnick canvassed the North County with fliers in hopes of finding Kai.

“He was never used for the military, but he does help with PTSD-related aspects for me as a service dog,” she told NBC7 in San Diego when he disappeared. “I would really like for him to come home.”
On Aug. 31, Melnick received a tip that told her Kai was in Aubrey, Texas. The same day, she boarded a plane to Texas and confirmed Kai was there.

With the help of Denton County Constable D. Boydston and Animal Control officials, the dog’s microchip was scanned and his identity confirmed.

Kai is with Animal Control officials and a property hearing is scheduled Wednesday to determine proper ownership of the dog.

Sheriff’s officials have identified a suspect, but did not identify him or her. The investigation is ongoing.

NOTE from Sussie: I have an issue with the fact that the dog is chipped with the rightful owner’s information yet the courts demanded a rightful owner hearing.


National Dog Day

by Sue on August 28, 2015

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National Dog Day is celebrated August 26th annually and was founded in 2004 by Pet & Family Lifestyle Expert and Animal Advocate, Colleen Paige. It serves to help the public to recognize the amount of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and recognizes dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives and keep us safe and bring comfort. Putting their lives on the line each day for their law enforcement partner, to help their mentally or physically disabled handler, by detecting bombs or drugs and finding lost individuals or those trapped by a disaster.

National Dog Day is against “breed bans”. Dogs should not have to lose their lives because they are stereotyped.

Americans do have the right to purchase a purebred dog, however it is strongly suggested NOT to buy dogs from pet stores supplied by puppy mills, backyard breeders and the internet. When considering buying from a breeder, verify the breeder is a reputable breeder by asking for local references such as a Veterinarian. It’s vital to educate yourself about the breed you’re considering. Know what to expect before you buy. That is the key. Every breed is different.

Thousands of dogs are killed each year because they’re simply unwanted. They are “thrown away” because the owner did not research the breed before buying or they were bought as a gift for someone who decided the responsibility was something they no longer wanted or because they shed too much or because they bark too much or simply because someone changed their mind.

Dogs do not understand why they were left at a shelter. In a dog’s mind, they did something wrong and that is why they are there. Dogs are pack animals. A human or a family is their “pack”. In the wild when a dog does something against pack established rules, they are banished from the pack. When a dog ends up at a shelter, they are left wondering what they did wrong to be banished from the “pack”. This is, honestly, the reason many dogs go into a state of depression once they arrive at the shelter.

All a dog wants to do is love you. Dogs are amazing, courageous, sensitive beings that deserve love and understanding. Please consider bringing a rescue into your home, or adopt one from a shelter. They will never forget being “rescued” and loved again.


Common household items which are harmful to your dog

by Sue on August 17, 2015

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Dogs are curious. It is one of the things that make them such special companions. Sometimes that curiosity leads them into areas of the house where you store unsafe items such as medicine and detergents. Many common household items that you use everyday can be harmful or lethal to your dog. Below is a list of items that you should store securely away from your dog’s reach.
Common household items which are harmful to your dog:
Antifreeze and other car fluids
Bleach and cleaning fluids
Boric acid
De-icing salts
Disinfectants (Unless they are approved to be used around pets)
Drain cleaners
Furniture polish
Hair colorings (Even those used to dye dogs such as poodles)
Weed killers
Nail polish and remover
Prescription and non-prescription medicine for humans
Rat poison
Rubbing alcohol
Shoe polish
Sleeping pills
Snail or slug bait
Windshield-wiper fluid
If your dog ingests any of the above contact your Veterinarian IMMEDIATELY!


Restaurant apologizes for turning away vet with service dog

by Sue on August 3, 2015

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A National restaurant chain has fired a local manager and issued an apology after an Army war veteran who says he has post-traumatic stress disorder was refused a table because he was accompanied by a service dog.

Garrett Loughran, 32, and his 5-year-old labradoodle named Hershey, donning a red service dog cape, went to Houlihan’s in Algonquin with Loughran’s parents for lunch the day before Memorial Day.

“He’s very important to me,” Loughran said about Hershey.

Carpentersville shop a tailor-made take on the American Dream
Carpentersville shop a tailor-made take on the American Dream
According to Loughran’s mother, Laura Wills, when the family walked in, a hostess and then her manager questioned the need for the service dog and told them they were not allowed to bring the dog into the restaurant.

They left, and Wills said they were welcomed and served at another restaurant nearby. But afterward, Wills wrote about the experience on her Facebook page and on Houlihan’s page. The posts generated thousands of shares, likes and comments.

And they also prompted Houlihan’s to acknowledge a mistake had been made.

Amy Fasholt-Fisher, vice president of operations for Houlihan’s Restaurant Group, said she and her company were “mortified” to learn of how the veteran and his dog were treated.

She said the manager, who had been employed at the restaurant about two years, has been fired and the restaurant is making a $2,000 donation to Pets for Vets.

“We are sincerely apologetic for the lack of respect and compassion that this veteran and his family experienced in our restaurant,” Fasholt-Fisher said.

Military nurses lauded at Elgin Memorial Day ceremony
Military nurses lauded at Elgin Memorial Day ceremony
It is company policy that all service dogs are always welcome in all Houlihan’s restaurants, she said. According to its website, Houlihan’s has almost 100 restaurants throughout the country, including several in the Chicago area.

Loughran said he held the rank of specialist and served as a tank mechanic for more than nine years on tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army officials confirmed Loughran had been in the Army and had deployed but could not provide specifics.

Wills said that Hershey helps her son cope with being in large crowds, and that the dog wakes him up when he is having nightmares.

“He’s constantly on guard, constantly looking around, especially when a lot of people are around him,” Wills said of her son’s need for Hershey. “He is always looking for a threat. The dog calms him.”

She said that since her son moved back to her Huntley home from Wyoming about five weeks ago they had gone out to several restaurants with Hershey and had never been treated that way.

Wills took to Facebook to share the story in hopes of spreading awareness.

On Monday, Loughran, his parents and Hershey, at Houlihan’s request, went back to the restaurant.

“They were very nice people, very understanding and very forgiving,” Fasholt-Fisher said.

She said they “had a nice conversation” about how the restaurant could do a better job in such a scenario and asked how they could make things right.

Loughran and his family suggested the donation be made to Pets for Vets to help cover the costs of training another service dog.

Loughran bought Hershey for about $1,000 from a service dog training facility in Colorado about three years ago.

“He helps keep me calm … alerts me when there is something wrong,” Loughran said.

Loughran said that after he was turned away from the restaurant Hershey “was just there to comfort and calm me down afterwards. I was rather upset.”

He said he had never had a similar experience at a restaurant.

Loughran and Wills said the situation, though unpleasant, has raised awareness for a better understanding of PTSD and service dogs and a better appreciation for veterans.

“That’s all I wanted,” Wills said.

She was shocked to find her Facebook posts garnering so much attention.

On Memorial Day, she and her son were visiting family in downstate Savanna and had no cellphone service, so she was unaware of the flurry of activity on Facebook. Once she was back in range, a call came in from her brother saying Houlihan’s was trying to contact her.

Loughran said that Houlihan’s management “apologized profusely” and that he believes the company is sincere.

Note from Sussie: That is actually how I got Costco’s attention when they refused entry of me and my service dog. The manager verbally attacked me and sent me into a PTSD episode that my Service Dog could not pull me out of. I posted it on Costco’s facebook page. It went viral. I can’t talk anymore about the settlement and all that but, rest assured, there is no more trouble with them.


The Fight for Service Dogs for Veterans With PTSD

by Sue on July 15, 2015

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When it comes to treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, no intervention regularly receives as glowing reviews as service dogs. The use of service dogs to treat PTSD is new, though, and many of the findings at this point are anecdotal. Many veterans had eagerly hoped a pioneering study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs would buttress their personal experiences with science that could support implementing widespread therapeutic use.

By pairing veterans with a service dog and tracking their condition over three years, the study could demonstrate to service dog providers around the country how to effectively train for PTSD patients, and might provide convincing evidence for the VA system to create a benefit for the treatment.

Last week, however, the agency confirmed that it had suspended the study at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, FL, for the second time this year after alleging that a vendor violated its contract and endangered the health of its dogs. The latest setback left about 100 veterans on the study’s waiting list without any hope that they’d receive a dog in the near future. It also raised the thorny question of how to conduct research in a field that is new, but where the need is urgent.

Traditionally used for blind, deaf, or physically disabled patients, service dogs have only recently been trained to perform tasks that can improve PTSD symptoms, like wake a veteran from a nightmare or create a buffer in large crowds or public places.

Patients often experience dramatic improvement, say service dog experts. They feel renewed confidence in social situations, decrease medication use, and are less likely to startle. Some veterans say it’s the only treatment that ever worked so well.

Congress, which required the study in 2009, permitted the VA to match as many as 200 veterans with service dogs. Mark Ballesteros, a spokesperson for the VA, said in a statement to The Atlantic that the study had so far paired 17 dogs with veterans and that the agency is “developing a new plan to carry out this important research.” It also notified the Office of Inspector General about the contract violations for further investigation.

Carol Borden, executive director of the vendor under investigation — Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc., in Williston, FL, — vehemently denied the VA’s allegations.

“We were doing this work before and we will continue to do this work because we love our veterans and are passionate about our success and what we are able to give people through our dogs,” Borden told me. “We will continue to carry on with anyone who qualifies that wishes to continue with our program.”

In a document related to the investigation, officials said they expected the study to resume in 10 months after changes have been made to its design.

In particular, the VA plans to conduct a nationwide search for the best dogs, expanding the number of providers and contracting instead with trainers to pair veterans with an animal. Doing so, the agency hopes, will eliminate a problematic conflict of interest wherein the service dog provider may perceive a financial incentive to pair dogs regardless of whether or not they have received necessary training or would perform well.

Such are the hard lessons of designing a study that is the first of its kind for the VA. But the research has been troubled from the start. It began with three service dog providers, two of which stopped participating earlier this year; it was initially suspended from January to June after a dog bit a young girl. Guardian Angels had no reported incidents when the study resumed.

Brian Jones, a former sergeant major who performed special operations as an Army Ranger and Delta Force soldier, was on the waiting list and said both suspensions were disappointing. He was notified last week by email that VA had canceled its contract with Guardian Angels, advising him to seek the assistance of a mental health provider if the news was upsetting. The email recommended that he not use Guardian Angels, and said that if he received a service dog during the study’s suspension, he would be withdrawn from the research.

Jones, who has visited the Guardian Angels facility and said the conditions were pristine, plans to proceed with getting a service dog from Borden. He is scheduled to receive Sarge, a one-year-old German Shepherd, in December, and that thought gives him comfort.

Jones, 56, served for two decades before retiring in 2006. He says he’s struggled with PTSD symptoms for about 10 years and works hard to manage them. Jones hopes that Sarge will help alleviate his unease in crowds and difficulty sleeping.

Jones is deeply worried about fellow veterans who have been counting on the VA study to pair them with a dog, fearful that some might feel hopeless.

“I will move forward,” Jones says. “I have a life to live. If I wait on the VA, I will be waiting forever.”

The fact that research in this area is limited primarily to the VA is troubling to both veterans and experts who feel that one government agency cannot be expected to provide all of the answers. The need, however, is seen as pressing: As many as 520,000 service members who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 have or may develop PTSD.

Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, a psychiatrist and former colonel in the Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General, told me that more money, research and academic/non-profit partnerships are needed to provide scientific evidence for the anecdotes, and a framework for training and pairing.

As an example, Ritchie points to National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS), a Massachusetts-based provider that has quietly researched treating post-traumatic stress. (Ritchie serves on NEADS’ advisory council.)

The organization spent two years — and more than $500,000 — on a pilot program that matched 16 veterans with trained dogs. Dr. Cynthia Crosson, a psychiatric consultant who led the effort, said the study was designed as exploratory and qualitative instead of quantitative. She looked at measures of improving wellness, but said those were initially difficult to identify in the context of receiving a service dog as treatment.

Crosson, who has specialized in studying child abuse, said she confronted a similar challenge in studying post-traumatic stress recovery: “Initially, it was how do you quantify people’s healing?”

Through the pilot, NEADS has developed techniques for training and measuring improvement that Crosson was hesitant to describe before publishing the results in a journal. NEADS has since made the pilot a part of its regular programs.

That’s one more provider that has done thorough research on PTSD service dogs, but it will take several similar efforts and millions in funding over the next few years before evidence-based best practices can be handed down to every service dog organization that wants to train for PTSD treatment.

In the meantime, the VA study remains stalled, and the agency recently ruled that it would not provide service dog benefits to treat mental health issues.

For Brian Jones, what matters is getting a highly-trained dog that will likely give him relief after years of searching. Though that day is still a few months away, the idea brightens his outlook: “Tomorrow is going to be better because I’m going to have this dog.”

Note from Sussie:

The term “vendor” in this article means a trainer that is supplying PTSD dogs to the Veterans. It makes me sick to think that a trainer is mistreating/neglecting dogs!

Sussie, Gunny, Rainy, Lucy and Squeaky
And introducing Hildegarde (aka Hildee) and “T”.

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Measure eases fees for service dogs

by Sue on July 8, 2015

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PHOENIX – It’s not a big-ticket item, but some seniors and veterans in Rep. Phil Livingston’s legislative district said dropping registration fees for those who need service dogs would help people on fixed incomes.

“For the people who are disabled and on a fixed budget, they’re watching every penny and shouldn’t have to pay for the service dog they need,” said Livingston, a Peoria Republican whose District 22 includes Sun City West, Surprise and parts of Peoria and Glendale.
At present, anyone who needs a service dog and registers it has to pay the same fee as someone registering a pet. For instance, it costs $17 to register a neutered or spayed dog in Maricopa County and $42 to register dogs that aren’t neutered or spayed.

The registration provides proof of ownership and requires that dogs receive rabies shots.

Livingston said he authored HB 2355 to provide a bit of relief for those relying on service dogs. The measure also would apply to search and rescue dogs.

“I’ve had a couple of people in my district — retirees, veterans — who brought this to my attention,” Livingston said. “Even though it’s a small fee, it’s an important fee for them.”

Livingston said the bill wouldn’t change any other part of the animal registration process. Counties could still have the owners register dogs and keep them up to date with shots but couldn’t charge to register them.

The House Agriculture and Water Committee endorsed the bill recently on a 6-1 vote, forwarding it to the floor.

HB 2355 is one of two bills in the House addressing service animals. HB 2401, authored by Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, would expand the definition of service animals under Arizona law to include miniature horses trained to assist the disabled. That bill won approval from the House Health Committee and was awaiting action by the full House.

Livingston said he would offer a floor amendment to address a provision in his bill dictating that owners must prove the dog is a service animal, which advocates said runs counter to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

JJ Rico, managing attorney for the Arizona Center for Disability Law, said the amendment should mirror ADA standards mandating that no one can ask if a person is disabled, though he noted that it’s fine to ask if a dog is a service dog and what is it trained to do.
“If it’s passed with an amendment, this bill would help
financially,” Rico said. “If people don’t have to pay for a dog license, that would minimize the expenses for a group that can’t always spare it.”

Amina Kruck, vice president of Advocacy for the Arizona Board to Independent Living, who also raised concerns about the requirement of proof, said the bill as amended would help a community that often has half the income of able-bodied Arizonans.

“I know people on really fixed incomes, and this would really help them with independence,” she said.

Note from Sussie: I’m very surprised at this. The ADA states that Service Dog owners cannot be charged fees. It also states that they do not have to show proof of training. The state needs to understand this.


Veterans kicked out of bar because of service dogs

by Sue on July 1, 2015

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I will post the link here because there is a video. I side with them. In the video it clearly shows the security guard trying to touch the woman with PTSD. I know for a fact that this is something you do not do to a person with PTSD. It will ALWAYS trigger a negative response from them.


Lifesaving Service Dog Sniffs Out Girl’s Disease, Even in Operating Room

by Sue on June 24, 2015

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Since she was two months old, Kaelyn “KK” Krawczyk has had a severe form of mastocytosis, which can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction to simple, everyday things – heat, exercise, even exposure to medicines.

Mastocytosis is a rare disease that causes an abnormal accumulation of mast cells in one or more organ systems. When mast cells are activated, they can induce immediate allergic inflammation. The disease is exceedingly rare and has a broad range of symptoms and severity, according to the Mastocytosis Society.

But for KK, a 7-year-old from Apex, N.C., these allergic reactions can be fatal and can escalate quickly to anaphylaxis or fatal shock.

“She gets too hot, she gets stressed, she has an infection,” said her mother, Michelle Krawzyck, 39. “Her reactions range from mild, like being flushed or irritable, to life-threatening drop in blood pressure, vomiting and difficulty breathing.”

Penn Vet dogs learn to sniff out cancer.

Doctors had warned the family that KK might not even be able to go to school.

“They said it wasn’t safe,” said Krawzyck, who has four other children, ages 4 to 16. “She could go into anaphylaxis quickly and we would not know the trigger. We were devastated.”

KK needs to be monitored all night long so her parents worry that anything, even hot blankets, might lead to a reaction that causes a fall down the stairs, unconsciousness or worse.

But for the last 18 months, they have a much better medical watchdog: a terrier named JJ who can smell the cell changes before she has a serious reaction and warn her parents that she needs her medical kit.

KK has recurring kidney infections and trips to the hospital. Doctors have discovered that the dye used in surgical procedures and the chemicals in anesthesia can trigger dangerous allergic responses.

“One of the things we know is that she is at high risk for anesthesia,” said her mother. “She had a really bad reaction coming out of it in the past. She was really flushed and her blood pressure was low and she had shortness of breath.”

So just this week, doctors allowed JJ and her trainer to accompany KK into the operating room at Duke University Medical Center, where she was to have exploratory kidney surgery. The dog was there to alert the anesthesiologist in advance of a reaction so they could ward it off with medication before it becomes life-threatening.

“It was kind of logical, actually,” her anesthesiologist, Dr. Brad Taicher told the News-Observer, which first reported the story.

“Knowing what JJ could do, we realized that JJ was not much different from other monitors we use.”

And JJ does her job well. The terrier picks up the scent of KK’s cell changes, then barks and tugs at her parents’ clothes.

“The other cool thing she does is she knows how to retrieve her kit with the life-saving meds.”

Just one month into training in January, JJ responded during one of KK’s worst reactions.

“She started licking our daughter to get her up,” said Krawczyk. “All the cardiac monitors were in the normal range. KK said, ‘Mommy, I feel like there’s a ball in my throat.’ She was having swelling, and time is of the essence. Four minutes after JJ alerted us, the monitors started to change.”

“She alerts the hospital staff before all their fancy equipment can,” said Krawczyk. “It makes believers out of those who didn’t believe and confirmed those who did. JJ was a better indicator of when things are starting to go wrong than all the monitors.”

JJ was trained in scent detection by Deb Cunningham, program director at Eyes Ears Nose and Paws in Chapel Hill, a nonprofit service dog agency.

“One day I was working with a local animal shelter and looking at golden retrievers,” she said. “The kennel manager pulled me back and said, ‘Hey, I think there is a little dog you should meet.’ I had never trained a terrier before and we usually don’t work with shelter dogs. I did a temperament test with her. Turned out she was great.”

JJ grew up in Cunningham’s home and underwent nine months of intense training to be a diabetic alert dog.

Meanwhile, the Krawczyks were looking for a service dog that could alert them when KK was having a reaction and called Cunningham, who had trained dogs in scent work. Cunningham asked if mastocytosis emitted a scent, hoping she might train the little terrier to pick up on the reaction before it became full-blown.

Krawzcyk was asked to swab KK’s mouth and save articles of clothing that the girl wore during a reaction so that JJ could be trained to detect her saliva and sweat.

“I couldn’t be more proud of JJ,” said Cunningham. “She has way surpassed my expectations for what an alert dog can do…. She even alerted someone else in their life who didn’t know she had diabetes and went to the doctor as a result.”

Now, KK is allowed to go to school with JJ by her side. Her mother, who is an online nursing professor, goes along with her daughter and quietly sits in the classroom doing her work.

“Because JJ is so sensitive I can let KK do all the things she would normally do until JJ alerts me it’s time to stop.”

For KK, having an alert dog like JJ will be part of the rest of her life.

“We hope she will get better, but we don’t expect her disease to go away,” said Krawzcyk. “It’s a lifelong process for her and that’s O.K. Medical science can’t provide us with a monitor. JJ is her lifeline and she knows that.”

“She [JJ] singlehandedly has done more than any medical person has done,” she said. “JJ has given KK a new lease on life and the ability to lead a normal life.”