Young patient gets seizure-alert dog
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Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013

Young patient gets seizure-alert dog

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/14/17/02/lovkh.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - SUSAN SHINN
    Seth, 3 1/2, also is excited to have another dog in the family.
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    - SUSAN SHINN
    Gabe is shown with his new family, Tim and Corey Smith, Anna Beth and Seth.
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    - SUSAN SHINN
    Family and friends gathered at the Smith home on Nov, 8 to meet Gabe, Anna Beth’s seizure-alert dog.
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    - SUSAN SHINN
    Gabe is a 5-month-old yellow lab from Warren Retrievers in Culpepper, Va. He will serve as a companion for Anna Beth Smith, and also will alert Anna Beth’s parents to her seizures.
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    - SUSAN SHINN
    Anna Beth Smith, center, reacts while meeting her dog, Gabe, for the first time.
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    - SUSAN SHINN
    Anna Beth Smith and Lisa Wallace watch a video together. A foundation set up in memory of Lisa’s son, Sam, donated more than $15,000 toward a seizure-alert dog for Anna Beth, which was delivered Nov. 8.

On Friday morning, Nov. 8, the Davis household was abuzz with activity.

Family and friends began arriving shortly after 8:30. Brenda Hodgens and her twin sister, Linda Turner, brought in a platter of sausage and ham biscuits.

Lisa Wallace came in and greeted her special friends. Grandparents and great-grandparents arrived, getting their share of hugs and kisses.

A little after 9 a.m., the moment everyone had anticipated for more than a year finally arrived.

“They’re here!” someone said, and everyone rushed out into the chilly morning, standing eagerly in the driveway.

Cheri Campbell opened the back door of her white truck and asked gently, “Are you ready to meet your new family?”

She carried Gabe, a 5-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, in her arms and introduced him to the Davises.

Gabe is a seizure-alert dog. He will serve as a companion to Anna Beth Davis, 51/2. Anna Beth has a brain disorder that causes seizures, and Gabe will help her attain a measure of independence she hasn’t had until now.

Anna Beth is the daughter of Tim and Corey Davis, and she has a brother, Seth, 31/2.

An article in Cabarrus News in August 2012 told readers about Anna Beth’s need for a service dog, and people responded, said Hodgens, a close family friend.

Donations came from R. Brown McAllister, Royal Oaks and Forest Park elementary schools, Stepping Stones Preschool, Kannapolis Church of God, West Point Baptist Church, First Wesleyan Church in Kannapolis, Kimball Lutheran Church, Kannapolisthe Harrisburg Cruisers Classic Car Club and many individuals.

“That article was all it took,” Hodgens said. “God’s hand was in it the whole time.”

The largest donations toward the needed total of $26,500 came from the Harrisburg Cruisers ($10,500) and the Sam Wallace Memorial Fund ($6,500). Lisa Wallace, Sam’s mother, set up the fund after his death in 2011.

“When I read the article in the paper, I knew immediately that Anna Beth was our first recipient,” Wallace said.

Corey Davis' parents, Mel and Myra Thompson, also came to meet Gabe.

“It’s the answer to prayer,” Mel said. “It’s really tough having a child who takes constant attention. This will help some of that. Anna Beth loves animals.”

Anna Beth can’t speak, but she can make sounds to indicate some of her needs. Several times during the morning, she shrieked with laughter whenever Gabe came to give her kisses.

“The trainers let us name him,” Corey said, “so we named him Gabriel, like the angel.”

Gabe already been trained in basic commands, and Cheri Campbell spent several days with the family to teach them how to work with their new dog.

“Gabe will be able to tell Mom and Dad with a trained alert signal that Anna Beth is having seizures,” Camptell explained. “Gabe’s just a real sweet, laid-back, calmer dog.”

Campbell will continue working with the family every 90 to 120 days and will have weekly contact with them by phone.

“People call this a job,” Campbell said, “but it’s a calling. It’s definitely gratifying.”

Like any great-grandparents, Whit and Evelyn Whitley think their great-grandchildren are precious.

“She’s excited,” Evelyn said of Anna Beth. “I could tell she took up with Gabe right away. She loves people.”

Seth, too, was thrilled to have a new dog.

“I think he likes you,” Campbell said, as Seth wrapped his arms around Gabe.

Watching all the happy activity was overwhelming for Wallace, she said.

“I’m just so happy. They are such a special family,” Wallace said. “I’ve just fallen in love with all of them. I didn’t realize how exciting this would be.”

“We’re so blessed,” Corey Davis said. “And now he’s here, and Anna Beth can sleep in her own bed.”

Because Anna Beth’s seizures are silent, she’d been sleeping with her parents in their queen-size bed, along with Seth and their dachshund. Corey and Tim are expecting a third baby in May.

“I think we’re gonna have a little more happiness from here on out,” she said.

“I think Gabe will fit right in with us and our family,” Tim Davis said. “As a dad, I have seen my little girl go through seizures, and I feel helpless. This dog will be with her more than her parents will. This dog will be with her 24 hours. He’ll never leave her side.”

Gabe took it all in stride, sniffing and wagging his tail and giving kisses and receiving kisses and hugs and doing all the things young dogs do. But he’s definitely a special dog.

As the morning wound down and folks began to leave, Corey Davis and Lisa Wallace embraced in the kitchen, both in tears.

“I just love you!” Corey told her friend.

“My Sam would be so proud today,” Lisa said later. “He loved dogs and children. This is as good as it gets.”

Warren Retrievers trains Labrador retrievers to be diabetic alert dogs, autism service dogs or seizure alert dogs. For more information about this organization, visit www.sdwr.org.

Susan Shinn is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Susan? Email her at susanshinn@hotmail.com.

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