Amy W., Lewi's owner, tells us the moving story of Lewis, a two-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
In October 2011, when he was just over a year old, Lewis and I passed our evaluation with National Capital Therapy Dogs, Inc. to become a therapy dog team. We began visiting at The Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins Hospital shortly thereafter.
Just a few short months later, in February 2012, Lewis had his first seizure during his weekly swim. After some common causes such as low blood sugar and a heart issue were ruled out, we were referred to Dr. McDonnell for a neurology consultation. By process of elimination, Lewis was ultimately diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy. It has been a difficult journey as we learn how to manage his seizures, working to decrease their frequency through diet and anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Thankfully, we have VNOC on our side. Dr. McDonnell and his staff have been caring, responsive and open to our concerns/ideas regarding Lewis' treatment plan. We couldn't ask for a better team!
In spite of his seizure disorder, Lewis has earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) award and his AKC Therapy Dog (THD) title (at least 50 therapy visits) within one year of becoming a therapy dog. At The Kennedy Krieger Institute, we were chosen as one of three dog teams to participate in their new Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program implemented this fall. Every Monday we work side by side with the therapists as a tool during their therapy sessions and occasionally visit in-patient floors at night to offer some amusement and comfort. We are a Reading Education Assistance Dog (R.E.A.D.) team and volunteer twice month at The Kennedy Krieger Middle and/or High School where students can read to Lewis in a positive, relaxed environment. Lastly, we visit an in-patient psychiatric floor at Johns Hopkins Hospital weekly as part of their group therapy.
I firmly believe that without the knowledge and support of the VNOC team, Lewis would not be the active therapy dog he is today. We have learned that seizure disorders, while challenging, do not have to be all-consuming. There are many more great days than bad. It's amazing to see the smiles that Lewis brings to his patients' faces, offering either a distraction from the current situation or a catalyst to initiate sharing a fond memory of a patient's beloved pet. He inspires me every day, pushing me to give a little more, to be a little more patient, and to appreciate the small stuff.