Dog News

Community Raises Thousands to Give Toddler Alert Dog

by Melanie

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5.3.13 Seizure Alert Dog
Travis, Layla and Jennifer Sawicki


In March we brought you the story of Layla Sawicki, the Virginia toddler whose parents were trying to raise money to provide their daughter with an urgently-needed seizure alert dog.  We are happy to tell you that within only a few days, all of the money necessary for this to be possible was donated.

The nearly-two-year-old began having seizures when she was only a few months old.  They can never let her out of their sight, because they never know when a seizure will strike.  Most often they happen while Layla is sleeping, so she must sleep between her parents.

Some dogs can detect chemical changes that take place in the body just before a seizure hits.  Such a dog could provide some much needed respite to parents Jennifer and Travis Sawicki.

“It’s one of the most beneficial things that we as humans have figured out, that dogs know how to do this,” Jennifer said.  “My daughter can be in the next room, and I have no idea anything is going on. [If she has a seizure], I could walk in there 10 minutes later, or the dog barks, and I’m there in a second. That could potentially be something that saved her life…. That’s absolutely amazing.”

The cost for one of these dogs is about $22,000 – far more than the Sawickis have.  The nonprofit organization 4 Paws for Ability contributed $9,000, but said the family was responsible for coming up with the remainder.  They were able to put together $5,000, but didn’t know how they would come up with an additional $8,000.

After their story made the news, their problem was easily solved.  Local businesses and a veterans group forked over the cash, as did dozens of anonymous donors.

“A part of me is regretful that I don’t know who those people were,” Jennifer said.  “I want to be able to thank everyone individually.  I’d like to have them all come to lunch so they could meet Layla.”

Some individual donors gave as much as $1,000, but every amount is greatly appreciated.  VFW Post 392 in Virginia Beach raised over $900, and a car dealer put in thousands.  Other businesses offered to pledge $10,000 or more, but by then, the family had already reached their goal.

“I was completely astonished by how many people care about a child they don’t know in a family they don’t know,” Jennifer said. “This is my kid, and she’s getting something that is going to potentially save her life. They’ve done a huge favor, a huge justice to my child. She’s got a security blanket now, and that’s what she needs.”

Early next year, Layla and her father will travel to Ohio to meet her new dog and to participate in a week of training.  (Jennifer will probably not be able to attend, as the Navy petty officer 2nd class is due to deploy around the same time.)  The organization will choose the dog that is the best fit for Layla.  It will accompany the girl everywhere, which will help her parents breathe more easily.

“When I’m out to sea, I can rest easy knowing that my husband and this dog are going to be able to take care of her.”