By Tamas Mondovics
Thanks to his mother’s dedication and the support of a caring community, six-year-old Brandon area resident, Andrew Smith, is now able to feel some independence and protection.
After a year-long campaign to raise $13,000 launched by his mom, Michelle, Andrew welcomed to his home, Victory, a Golden Retriever seizure alert dog, trained to protect the young boy day and night by being his constant companion, a much-welcomed member of the family and, most importantly, a loyal friend.
“We are thrilled to have Victory with us now,” Michelle said. “The feeling is unbelievable. We have another member of the family who loves and will protect Andrew. She is a great companion for him and very soothing for when he is in need.
Andrew’s Epilepsy and subsequent seizures began after some complications at birth that led to heart surgery at three weeks and brain surgery to place a permanent shunt for Hydrocephalus at six months.
“There are no warning signs,” Michelle said. “We never know when a seizure is going to happen. His seizures occur primarily around sleep, so having Victory in our home now is so important.”
Thanks to the successful campaign, Michelle and Andrew traveled to Xenia, Ohio last month to pick up Victory from 4 Paws for Ability, the organization that trains and provides service dogs to individuals with special needs.
Adding to the success, upon seeing each other for the first time, Andrew and Victory bonded immediately.
“We had been sending some of Andrew’s shirts he had worn for the past year to 4 Paws, so when we walked up to her she went directly to him, sat down at his feet and started licking his hands,” Michelle said.
The friendship is now blossoming as Victory is at her owner’s side at all times and looks for him when he is not home. She sleeps in the bed with him or right next to the bed ready to alert the family.
“I would like to thank, Beef O Bradys Valrico, Brandon Newcomers, Infants and Young Children, Almost Home Pet Resort, South Pointe Taekwondo, Signature Spa at Harbor Island, as well as the Osprey Observer Newspapers for being there for us from start to finish,” said Michelle.
Victory continues to be trained daily to get to know Andrew and to help the whole family keep him safe.
To support 4 Paws for Ability, please visit www.4pawsforability.org