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Assistance Dog Saves Life
AN assistance dog trained to help a 10-year-old Sippy Downs boy has saved the life of his teenage sister.
Harley has become the hero of Rebecca Armstrong's household after raising the alert when her daughter, Hannah, 15, had a seizure and stopped breathing about 2 o'clock one morning.
The golden retriever, who had been trained by Smart Pups as an autism assistance and seizure response dog for Rebecca's son, William, had been with the family for just two weeks before he proved himself a hero.
"I heard himbark and woke up and went into William's room thinking he's having a seizure but he was fast asleep," Ms Armstrong said.
"Harley was standing at my daughter's bedroom door with his head down and whining and making these little alert barks.
"I opened thedoor and Hannah was in the middle of a tonic-clonic seizure."
Hannah resumed breathing once placed in the recovery position but Ms Armstrong dreads to think what might have happened if not for Harley's amazing efforts on the night.
Although Hannah has had seizures in the past, she had not usually had such a significant.
She said Harley had already helped William several times with seizures but she was amazed when he did the same with Hannah, who had not really had a bond with him.
"He's trained to work with William but for him to pick up on epilepsy with my daughter who was in a completely different room with the door shut, I didn't think it could happen," she said.
"It's been lifesaving for us. I could have gone in the morning and found her passed away."
Smart Pups director Patricia McAlister said dogs like Harley were trained to detect seizures by the scent given off through chemical changes in the body and it was not unheard of for them to pick up on seizures in people other than their assigned handlers.
Ms Armstrong's family fund raised to pool together $15,000 towards the cost of training an assistance dog for William after exhausting other options to help him with his autism and it had been a bonus when Smart Pups offered to also provide seizure response training.
She said Harley had more than proven his worth and she hoped the story would demonstrate the incredible abilities and value of assistance dogs.
Harley was treated to some biscuits and extra hugs for being a lifesaver but even before that, he had been a life changer for the family, she said.
"People say, 'It's just a dog' and it doesn't matter how many times you explain it but when you see if for yourself how much dogs can change kids' lives," she said.
"It's not just the kids they support but the family as a unit because of the calming effect these dogs bring. They reduce the stress in everybody.
"Even though I'd read up on it, I didn't realise how much of an impact having a dog like Harley can have."
She described Harley as her rock.
"I rely on Harley now for things I didn't rely on before. I know that if something goes wrong, he's going to be there to help.
"He's been our superhero but I'm sure all the Smart Pups families would say that about their Smart Pups."
"They are amazing dogs doing amazing work, not just for the kids but for the families and the people around them. I'm just so amazed by them. Go Smart Pups!"
Smart Pups currently has about 60 people on waiting lists for assistance dogs, which cost $30-$35,000 to train.
The dogs can be trained in seizure response, autism awareness, mobility assistance, and for medical or diabetic alert.
The organisation is not government funded. It receives some donations and corporate sponsorship but families often pool funds or fund raiseto cover the cost of training a dog for a family member.
Thirty-two dogs are currently in training and another 25 pups are in foster care, with more carers needed. To become a foster carer or contribute in another way, go to smartpups.org.au.