Correction: This story was revised at 10:35 a.m., Jan. 11, 2012, to state that Canine Assistants will pay all the travel, food and lodging costs associated with having Seth Richards and his mother attend a training camp where the boy will be partnered with a service dog. Canine Assistants will also pay all future food and veterinary expenses once the dog returns to Maine. Richards said her family needs help from the public only to pay for bringing her husband and daughter to the training camp.
It’s rare that a day goes by without Seth Richards having to endure a seizure.
At just 12 years of age, having to cope with the life-threatening condition known as epilepsy has been tough not only on him, but on his parents and teenage sister as well.
That’s why Susan and Dwaine Richards of Raymond are asking the public to help them pay for a two-week-long training camp in Georgia that could be life-changing for Seth.
After a five-year wait, the sixth-grader at Jordan Small Middle School in Raymond has been approved to be paired with a service dog.
“It’s amazing to me to think how good his life could be with his best friend by his side,” Seth’s mother said.
Milton, Ga.-based Canine Assistants will pay all the travel, food and lodging costs associated with having Seth and his mother Reynolds attend the training camp where the boy will be partnered with a service dog. The organization will also pay all future food and veterinary expenses once the dog returns to Maine. Richards said her family needs help from the public only to pay for bringing her husband and daughter to the training camp.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that produces brief, intermittent disturbances in the normal electrical function of the brain. Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy.
According to the national Epilepsy Foundation, the condition affects more than 300,000 children under age 15. For some, it can be controlled with medication. For others, the condition can persist their entire life.
The service dogs, who were trained at the Canine Assistants farm over a period of 18 months, typically select the disabled person they want to become companions with.
Susan Richards said her son will be paired with a seizure response dog, which means the dog could lay beside a person during a seizure, retrieve a cordless phone, alert another person or even press a medic alert button.
According to the Canine Assistants website, some dogs have the natural ability — scientists don’t understand why — to sense the onset of a seizure. Anecdotal research indicates the dogs are responding to a certain type of smell.
Once a person and their dog develop a bond, about 87 percent of seizure response dogs can predict or react in advance by whining, pawing, jumping or barking, alerting the person or a caregiver.
Having a service dog at his side will allow Seth to become more independent.
“It will give him so much more freedom because right now he has to be within our view all the time,” his mother said.
Seth was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 5. The seizures began as blank stares, but have progressed to much more severe stages, including stopped breathing. He has fallen on occasion and hit his head.
His mother said someone needs to be with Seth at all times. When she is doing the dishes, for example, he needs to stay in the kitchen with her.
Seth is on a number of different medications, but so far his doctors have been unable to pinpoint what triggers the seizures.
His parents have never let anyone else care for him because others fear they might not be able to respond effectively to a seizure.
They need financial aid because Seth’s father was laid off from his job almost two years ago and his mother can’t work because taking care of her son has become her full-time job.
Seth has a sister, Falon, who is 15 years old.
The only pastime he is allowed to pursue — with his parents riding by his side — is dirt biking. He rides the bike covered from head to toe in a helmet and protective gear along the camp road that they live on.
“We allowed him to do this because we saw our little boy not being able to be a little boy. It’s really scary for us as parents, but we can’t take that away from him,” his mother said.
The Richards applied to Canine Assistants more than five years ago for a service dog. The organization has a current waiting list of about 1,600 people.
Things started to look up last year when the organization connected the family to a couple of corporate sponsors. Shaw’s Supermarkets and Milk-Bone, a maker of dog products, agreed to pay for the care and training of a service dog for Seth.
The family learned recently that in Seth’s case, a service dog will be assigned to him. The family will be introduced to the dog at the organization’s training camp in May.
To assist the family, send a check payable to “Service Dog for Seth Fund” to Key Bank, 1278 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond, ME, 04071.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: