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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi. This is Deana, new to chi people (intro and pic posted yesterday in Newbie Corner). I thought I'd share a little more about our newest furry family member, 2 year old Chica. Not only has this sweet little rescue made a wonderful addition to our family, but she's also turned out to be a potential life saver. Unfortunately, I developed a life threatening peanut allergy a few years back. One of my first symptoms, in an anaphylactic reaction, is a sudden and severe drop in blood pressure (which, according to my Dr, could lead to my losing consciousness before I had the chance to get to my EpiPen/injectable epinephrine). Thankfully, with my last reaction, I was able to inject myself in time before calling 911, but it's scary to think what could have happened! So, only a few weeks after adopting Chica, she began frantically sniffing at my left forearm and whining like I'd never heard her whine before. She wouldn't stop and she seemed quite distraught. Well only a few minutes later a large rash developed in the very area she'd been so focused on! I didn't think much of it, since I've heard of dogs pre-alerting to medical issues before, but I did tell a fellow nurse friend about it. She suggested I mention it to my allery doc, so at my next appointment I did, and to make a long story short, Chica is now in training as an official medical alert service dog! My Dr. said since Chica alerted to something as basic as a rash/skin allergic reaction, there is a very good chance she would also pre-alert to a systemic/anaphylactic reaction as well. This could allow me an extra minute or two to inject my EpiPen and call 911, which could be a literal life saver! Prior to my Dr. "prescibing" Chica as a medical alert service dog, I was pretty uninformed about service animals. I assumed that only large breeds could be working dogs, but my Dr. said that more and more people with severe peanut allergies are utilizing service dogs, and that size isn't an issue in the case of either medical alert or peanut detection. I've since done some research and learned that chihuahuas in particular make exceptional medical alert dogs because of their tendency to remain so glued to their favorite person. Chis are in service worldwide to those with life threatening allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, etc. While Chica's medical alert abilities are apparently inate, we are working with a local trainer, especially on crowd socialization. Service dogs must be well behaved at all times in public, and Chica used to sometimes bark at strangers. With training though, she has learned that barking will earn her the "Cesar shush" (which she doesn't like the sound of) and behaving nicely will earn her praise and a tiny piece of coveted freeze dried liver. Her trainer says the closer she is to me physically, the better the chance she would medically pre-alert, so I purchased a sling/messenger style dog carrier to use when we're out and about. I have her ID tags clipped to it, and I also keep a copy of the letter from my doctor and her trainer's most recent "report card" in the bag, just in case I should ever be asked to provide proof of her service dog status while out in public. I also, at my allergist's suggestion, had a custom pin made that says "Owner/Handler has severe nut allergy. EpiPen in purse" and it's on the outside of the bag. It increases the chances that if I did lose consciousness, someone might use my Epi to save my life, instead of just calling 911 (because, in cases such as mine, oftentimes by the time emergency personnel arrive, it's too late). Sadly though, I've read recently about people trying to pass off their little dogs as service dogs, just so that they can take them places. As someone with a valid need for a potentially life saving medical alert service dog, this makes me understandably frustrated! The celebrities treating their tiny dogs as fashion accessories makes me angry too. If I'd wanted to just carry around a cute little dog around in a fancy purse, I could have for years (we've had our wonderful 8 lb toy poodle for over 9 years now.) Anyway, I'll get off my soap box now, but I just wanted to share about my little life saver. I'm sorry this is so long!
 

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Go Chica!

My family's Chi mix, Lilly, acts as a service dog for my sister, who has epilepsy. There are too many examples to count when Lilly has warned us in enough time to get her on the floor and protect her head. She has literally saved my sister's life several times.

As someone with a SEVERE (my allergist says it is the worst he has ever seen) nut allergy and several other allergies, the fact that Chica helps with you with alerting about reactions is intriguing. I have had the nut allergy since I was four years old, so I am pretty good with dealing with it, but I'd love Toby to be able to help me! Plus, I recently developed a shellfish allergy, so now I have EVEN more to worry about. I too am concerned that I will pass out before I can use my epi-pen.

As of now, I am allergic to all types of nuts, peanut butter, mustard, pineapple, sunflower seeds and other seeds, shellfish, watermelon and more. If I develop many more allergies, I'll never be able to eat!

How did you go about getting Chica certified?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Oh my goodness, your Toby is SO cute! :) I'm so sorry to hear about all of your allergies. That's alot to have to deal with! :( Chica is still in training, but she has been deemed a medical alert service dog in training by my Dr, which is apparently all that is needed legally as I understand it. Her medical alert abilities are apparently inate, but I did choose to pursue additional training for socialization. As I understand it, per the ADA, a dog is a service dog if 1) You have a diagnosed disability and 2) The dog in some way mitigates that disability (ie does something for you that you can not do for yourself). Most service dogs are trained to mitigate their handler's disability, but in the case of many medical alert dogs that ability seems to be inate/inborn, as in Chica's case. Has Toby every pre-alerted to an allergic reaction of any type before? If so, I'd be sure to share that with your allergist. If not, I wonder if Toby could somehow be trained to do so? It's pretty amazing what certified trainers can do! They can even train dogs as peanut detection dogs (think bomb sniffing, but for peanut residue). My Dr. said those are more in use with kids with nut allergies though, since we adults tend to be more careful about nut exposure. So I'd encourage you to see what your Dr. thinks and then look into training from there. Good luck! :)
 
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