Molly the dog will keep close watch on girl with epilepsy

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Molly, a 3-month-old black lab, snuggles with Abby Ferris, 6, who has epilepsy and suffers from unpredictable seizures. Molly will be trained to watch for the seizures and to alert Abby’s parents or an adult.

CARLTON – The seizures started with Abby Ferris was she was 2, often striking at night. In the four years since then she has had about 30 seizures. They are unpredictable.

Abby, now 6, has epilepsy. Her parents, Kristin and Todd Ferris, keep a watchful eye on her, afraid to keep her out of sight in case of a seizure. They don’t let Abby sleep alone or go play by herself for very long.

Abby should soon be able to have more independence because the family purchased a seizure response dog, a black lab named Molly. The dog is just 12 weeks old but has already begun some basic training. Molly will be trained to observe Abby for seizures. If Abby is having one, the dog will be trained to go paw at Mr. or Mrs. Ferris.

“I want her to be a normal kid to be able to sleep in her own bed and go play on her own,” Mrs. Ferris said.

Abby Ferris is pictured with her parents, Kristin and Todd Ferris, and Abby’s seizure response dog, Molly.

Abby is very much an active 6-year-old, dancing at Gotta Dance by Miss Amy, jumping on a trampoline and riding a Barbie Car in the backyard.

There is a good chance she will outgrow epilepsy, a neurological disorder. Her seizures can be long, often more than 5 minutes. The family has medication at home if there is an extended seizure.

Mr. Ferris is a long-time Carlton firefighter, a former chief who led the department for 8 years. If Abby has a seizure, he can administer her medication and then check her pupils, muscle strength and equalization – the strength of her left and right sides of the body. Mrs. Ferris also worked in a doctor’s office.

Abby drives her battery-charged Barbie car in her backyard in Carlton.

The couple has learned not to panic when their daughter has a seizure.

However, they said they feel always on alert that their daughter could lose consciousness from a seizure. It’s particularly worrisome at night if she were to have a seizure and vomit. If she were alone, she could choke to death.

“It’s a guessing game. It’s so unpredictable,” Mrs. Ferris said.

Molly, the seizure response dog, gives the family some peace of mind, as well as providing an energetic playmate for Abby.

The family is working with Laura Gates from Gates Dog Training in Ransomville to have Molly become a trained seizure response dog. That training could cost $5,000 to $7,000.

Abby Ferris enjoys jumping on the trampoline.

The family is teaming with the Orr family in Albion for a fund-raiser on Oct. 25 to help pay for the costs of medical dogs.

Tyler Orr, 9, has juvenile diabetes. He was diagnosed almost two years ago. He has unpredictable seizures. His medical dog will be trained to detect a drop or spike in blood sugar levels. Tyler was featured in an Orleans Hub article on Aug. 3: “Family seeks medical dog for son with diabetes.”

Iva McKenna and Country Lane Veterinary Services in Barre are organizing the spaghetti dinner and basket raffle. For more information about tickets or to donate a basket, call Country Lane at 589-9835.