Coincidence and a tremendous act of kindness brought together 19-year-old Ashley Peitz and her seizure service dog, Dodger.
It happened when Gina Brisby of Manhattan was looking for a place to board her horse.
Brisby is the companion animal manager and service dog trainer at the Manhattan branch of Petco, a national chain of pet stores. She’s been training dogs for 15 years. She also works with the National Seizure Disorders Foundation to pair seizure alert dogs with people who need them.
Her daughter, Hayley Lubrano, has a service dog to help with her seizure disorder. Brisby herself has diabetes, and her own dog is trained to alert her when her blood sugar is too high or too low. The family is often training one or more other dogs.
So one day, Brisby and her daughter were visiting some stables owned by AJ Griffin of Manhattan. She asked him whether it would be OK for the dogs to come with them to the stables. He said it wouldn’t be a problem.
“He had never heard of a seizure alert dog,” Brisby said. “But he was just amazed.”
Brisby told him that 19-year-old Hayley was epileptic, and he asked, “What do I do if she has a seizure?” Brisby told him, “Nothing, the dog will handle it.”
They talked for a while and he told her it would be fine to have the dogs there.
But at the same time, Griffin was thinking about some friends in Garden City, Chad and Audra Peitz, whose daughter had seizures that were getting worse.
Griffin had been visiting the Peitzes in Garden City, and Ashley had suffered a grand mal seizure while he was there. He had known about Ashley’s epilepsy, but he had never seen her have a seizure until that day.
Ashley’s 4-year-old nephew found her.
“By the time he got in there, she was already down and shaking,” Audra said.
Ashley said she hates the idea that he saw her that way.
“I really did not want my niece or nephew to see me have a seizure,” she said. “I don’t know how they could be so calm.”
The incident made a big impression on Griffin. who told the Peitzes about Brisby and her dog training.
The problem was cost.
Because of the time it takes to work with them, trained service dogs can cost up to $60,000 — a pricetag that was just too high for the family. But Griffin worked out a deal with Brisby. He would board her horse for free for a year. In exchange, she would find and train a dog for Ashley.
“It wasn’t even two weeks later that AJ called and said, ‘I’m going to get Ashley that dog, and you need to come down here and meet with Gina and Haley,’ ” Audra said.
They called Brisby, and she started looking for a match that day.
“I never dreamed in a thousand years we’d be able to have a seizure dog,” Audra said, tearing up. “People just don’t do that anymore. Without AJ, I mean, he boarded their horse for free to get this dog for her. People just don’t do this kind of stuff.”
She said that while they were in Manhattan, staying with Griffin’s family, she tried to cook and clean for them, as much as possible.
But really, she said, “there’s nothing I can say, nothing I can do that will ever repay them.”
Tomorrow, how seizure alert dogs are able to detect seizures, plus how Ashley and Dodger are doing today.