It was a Thursday, and the grandmother was on her way to North Aiken Elementary School with her grandson. Driving by the Aiken County Animal Shelter, she asked the child if he would like to go and look at some dogs.
Is there a nearly 9-year-old boy who would say no to that offer? Probably not. The boy and his grandma wandered through the adoption pens at the shelter and were captivated by a beagle. Beagles can be very fetching, and the pair just knew this little female was The One.
The adoption fee was $70, and that was $70 that the grandma did not have. She told the shelter staff that she would have to figure out how to get the money, but that they wanted the beagle.
Over the weekend, the grandma sold some stuff and put the funds together. On the following Monday, the pair returned to the shelter only to find their beagle had been adopted. Frustrated and disappointed, the grandmother left the building and wept.
That was when a FOTAS volunteer came along and saw the woman in distress. Learning what happened, the volunteer offered another possibility. Lizzie. And that was when the magic began.
Lizzie had not been at the shelter very long. She was an Australian Shepherd mix surrendered by her owner. The dog was young, no more than 18 months old. She was healthy and seemed to be well-mannered. But Lizzie was doubly handicapped.
“Fifty-percent deaf and seventy-five percent blind,” the volunteer said, perhaps adding or implying, “Who’s going to want a disabled dog?”
The grandmother was intimately connected with the answer to that question. She had been raising her grandson since birth, a child with cerebral palsy and beset by frequent seizures.
They took Lizzie out to the play yard to get acquainted. The dog walked; she did not run. When the boy called her, she came. The woman watched her challenged child and the dog, and she knew that there was something special between them. They took Lizzie home.
That night, the dog got up on the child’s bed and tucked herself between his body and the wall. She put her head on the pillow next to his and slept beside him as if there was nowhere else in the world she belonged.
“What she hears, I don’t know,” the grandmother says, “But if he cries, she goes to him and sits beside him until he calms down.”
When the boy has a seizure, Lizzie sits or lies beside him. Lizzie is housebroken. She is affectionate. She is playful. “And I don’t know how much she can see,” the woman marvels, “But she seems not to have any trouble getting around.”
Lizzie, the disabled Aussie, found a home with a handicapped child who needs help she can give because a devoted grandmother scrounged together $70.
A seizure response dog takes 18 months to train and can cost $7,000. In this case, they did almost as well with love, determination and a trip to the County Shelter.
FOTAS volunteers work with the Aiken County Animal Shelter, 411 Wire Road. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fotasaiken.org.