Nadiya + Clara

Every great story begins with love. See how this one ends.

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Nadiya + Clara

Clara was definitely supposed to be a part of our family. She is a fury angel who watches over our child and keeps her safe. This abandoned German Shepherd mix had an important destiny to be a seizure alert dog for a very special child.

Our daughter Nadiya is severely disabled and suffers from a rare seizure disorder called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome or LGS. Though we have learned to manage this challenge, Nadiya’s severe seizure disorder still loomed in the shadows waiting for us to let our guard down. At any moment her seizures could hold us hostage or tear our world apart. LGS puts Nadiya at higher risk for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), and the risk of SUDEP increases if a child becomes unstable during puberty. This terrified us. The unspoken fear of finding our child had fatal seizure in her sleep while we were powerless to prevent it was more than we could take. I began to think about a seizure dog for Nadiya.

"Clara was identifying daily seizures, sometimes multiple times per day. She would bark and then come and get one of us."

Due to the high cost and long wait for a service dog, we decided to adopt a dog from Mid Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue with hopes that the dog would bond with Nadiya and know something was wrong if she seized, but we got much more.

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We loved Clara immediately and she bonded with Nadiya right away! She came to us with many commands already in her repertoire, and we immediately began training. A few weeks after Clara arrived, Nadiya had an unusual seizure. Clara barked at Nadiya and looked at my husband—this was exciting, and we began to reward Clara when she identified a seizure. It got to the point where Clara was identifying seizures without prompting. A year after we adopted Clara, Nadiya became very unstable as a new seizure type emerged. Clara was identifying daily seizures, sometimes multiple times per day. She would bark and then come and get one of us. It took us an entire year to regain stability and control over Nadiya’s seizures, but Clara was with her every step of the way.

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Now, two years after adopting Clara, she maintains her role as a seizure alert dog. Clara has learned many additional commands and walks nicely beside Nadiya’s wheelchair. Clara goes to and from the school bus stop with Nadiya. She sleeps in Nadiya’s room beside her bed and has alerted us at night when Nadiya has had a seizure. We plan to have Clara certified officially as Nadiya’s seizure alert dog.

She wears her service dog in training vest proudly and knows she has an important job to do. Each night, we sleep better knowing Clara is sleeping beside Nadiya and will bark if Nadiya has a seizure. Having this dog is a tremendous gift that has had a huge impact on our lives. The future looks very bright for Nadiya and Clara. This is a rescue dog with a very important job and huge potential. For that, we will be eternally grateful.

Clara-beachEach year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Jill P. won Mid Atlantic German Shepherd Rescue in Spring City, Pennsylvania a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.