For Epilepsy NL member, Derrick Kilfoy, a dog is more than a best friend but rather a life changing companion.
Josh, a black Labrador retriever, is a service dog that helps Derrick gain a lot more freedom and enjoy his life to the fullest.
Josh not only protects Derrick if he has a seizure, but he also helps alleviate a lot of his worries and concerns, allowing him to live a more liberating lifestyle.
“Josh certainly can make it a lot safer to go out. Now, I went anyway if I had to, but having Josh, I know he is there to look out for me, if I have a seizure, said Derrick. “He is a wonderful dog and very smart. He will stay with me if I have a seizure, while barking for help.”
Derrick got Josh in November 2008 from Lions Foundation of Canada Guide Dogs.
The project was founded in the early 1980s when Lion Clubs across Canada wanted to strengthen their support for people living with visual impairments. Since then other programs have been added to the foundation, including seizure response dogs.
In the event of a seizure, the dogs are trained to trigger a response system, bark for help, summons an emergency system or find someone within the home. Seizure response dogs can assist individuals at the age of six or older with epilepsy and they can give people the confidence to live more independently.
“To anyone who has frequent seizures, a response dog can really change your life. It gives you freedom to go out and live a little more,” advised Derrick. “There are dangers everywhere, from the end of a table to a bench in the park. My three front teeth were lost to the dining room table. Josh was a great help that day. He even came to the dentist with me while I got fixed up.”
Seizure dogs can give some people security, especially when experiencing seizures is a common occurrence for them.
“Being a part of Canada Guide Dogs means giving back to individuals looking to gain independence and being able to give a person a loyal companion who places no judgment on their handler. It gives me great pride in my work when this is accomplished,” said Head Trainer, Gloria Peckham.
A person interested in having a guide dog has to fill out an application online in order to be put on the waiting list. When the applicant is next in line, a trainer will fly out to their home and do an interview.
“The interview is to assess the person and to see if a dog could help. The trainer would bring the information back to dog Guides and present it to an acceptance committee at which time a decision is made on acceptance or denial into a program,” explained Gloria. “This process allows us to work with candidates that meet our criteria.”
The cost of a Guide Dog is on average $25 and free of charge to all candidates who qualify. Those interested would have to get to the training facility in Oakville on their own dollar. Derrick says the money is worth the change in lifestyle.
“There is also a very big change for family and friends, who worry if you are out alone. I no longer have to call whenever I arrive somewhere and all because of Josh,” said the dog owner.
For more information visit: http://www.dogguides.com/