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Service Dogs Provide Independence For People Suffering From Epilepsy

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Most think service dogs only help the blind.

"It's like an emergency dog basically," Sam Cooper said. "It's like my own 911 at my own assistance."

But Cooper knows his family's new golden-doodle named Shadow will help him deal with is frequent epileptic seizures.

"There's nothing worse than having a seizure and being in the hospital, being away from your kids, knowing you can't play with your kids," he said. "It's just a life changing event."

Sam, his wife and two children were matched with the dog this weekend. Funding comes from a private endowment to the Epilepsy Foundation. They know how these dogs can change a recipient's life.

"That's obviously extraordinarily helpful because you can move yourself to a place where are safe, you can sit down, you can lie down, you can put yourself in a position where you wouldn't be in harm's way," said Peggy Beem Jelley, president of the Epilepsy Foundation of Western and Central Pa.

"It takes a lot of money, lots of volunteer hours, lots of paid training hours, and vet bills and supplies and travel expenses and all that kind of stuff so it's very expensive but they are supporting us and that is great," said Nikki Kersey with Great Lakes Assistance Dogs.

Cooper has been epileptic since he was 8 years old. He may go a couple weeks without a seizure, or he could have one every day. To have a dog that is trained to push a button in Sam's house that calls 911 in case of a seizure is a huge relief.

"I haven't had full independence since I was 7 years old," he said. "I mean this is amazing. I can't tell you. I mean waking up in the morning not having that fear that who's going to watch me if I have a seizure."

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