Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A special dog for a special toddler

He's not quite two years old, but he already wants a puppy. Yet, while many families would say he's too young for a pet, Luke Smolinski's wishes have more at stake than playing fetch with Fido.
The Norton toddler has been diagnosed with epilepsy and a chromosomal disorder that has delayed his development, but the biggest challenge for his family are his constant and unpredictable seizures.

"At eight months, he had his first seizure and it was a pretty horrifying experience," said Jackie Smolinski, Luke's mother. "He has 15-20 a month. In one particular day, a couple of Saturdays ago, he had seven."

Jackie is hoping that a specially-trained Labrador can become the partner Luke needs in his times of crisis.

"The dog basically would just serve as an alert to us, is trained in seizure alert, to come and get us," she said. "They say the dog can actually come and get us before the seizure begins and most definitely after the seizure started."

Luke's doctors at Akron Childrens Hospital support the idea.

"I think it's a great idea," Dr. Cathy Kelly-Lagen said. "And for Luke to have someone able to know 'I'm having a seizure at night and someone needs to know' (will help). So they can at least keep track of the seizures because that will help the neurologist guide his therapy."

A specialized dog for Luke won't be cheap, but a group that trains dogs in Southern Ohio believes one can be found for Luke if his family can raise a portion of the funds.

A seizure response dog is $11,000 and a one-year supply of dog food is $5,700.

A special fundraiser to help with the cost of Luke's Dog will be Jan. 11 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Independence Civic Center, 6969 Selig Drive, in Independence. The $20 adult tickets (kids are free) include food, prizes and raffles and are tax deductible.

If you can't attend the event but would still like to help, tax deductible donations can be sent to:

4 Paws for Ability, Inc.
253 Dayton Ave.
Xenia, Ohio 45385

Make sure the name "Luke Smolinski" appears in the memo of the check so Luke gets credit for the donation.

To learn more about the training of the dogs and to see photos of Luke and his family visit

If you have prize items to donate to Luke's fundraiser, please contact Laurie Hovater Meadows at 216-952-3698.


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