Ohio family’s assistance dog dies, highlights needs

Hunter Miller was diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and hypoglycemia, adrenal insufficiency. Her service dog, Coco, recently died, but has saved Hunter four times.

ETNA, Ohio – The story of 10-year-old Hunter Miller started earlier than expected.

Born 3 and a half months earlier, he spent 13 months in the NICU and was diagnosed with autism, epilepsy and hypoglycemia, adrenal insufficiency that can cause seizures.

“He’s probably had about nine seizures in his life,” Cassidy Miller said.

Hunter’s mother Cassidy says a seizure left him in a two-hour coma. This brought Hunter to a new page. A new chapter. A new friend: Coco.

“Coco was like a nurse, but a dog,” Cassidy said.

Coco, a chocolate lab, had been with the Miller family for seven and a half years. She slept with Hunter and was trained to detect hypoglycemia preventing him from having seizures. Cassidy says Coco saved her life four times.

“She saved his life by coming to see us and alerting us that his blood sugar was low before we even knew it was low,” Cassidy said.

In September, Coco fell ill. A stomach infection resulted in a blood clot in his paw. After that, she left quickly.

“Yeah,” she said. “It was very unexpected.”

Hunter doesn’t quite understand, but his parents do. The loss of a family member. The loss of a safety net. Assistance dogs, trained to different abilities, can cost anywhere from $ 10,000 to $ 15,000. Their demand is high.

“We currently have a waiting list of about two years,” said Tera Jurrens.

Jurrens is the CEO and Founder of Freedom Paws in Marysville. It is a non-profit organization that trains service dogs for people with medical, psychiatric and physical needs. In central Ohio, Jurrens says 75 dogs have been placed with families. They are different, she says, from companion dogs.

“They are allowed in apartments and private homes, but they are not allowed in public while service dogs are trained for the task,” she said. “Three or more tasks for individuals and they are allowed anywhere the public is allowed.”

Jurrens says the Millers have been placed at the top of the list and are expected to have a new service dog by November.

Cassidy, grateful for the services of Freedom Paws, says $ 2,000 has been given as a deposit and the dog, with a discount due to Coco’s death, will be $ 10,000. Fundraising, due to COVID, she said, has been slow. She knows that the service rendered to her son, who helps him to continue his story, is invaluable.

“Just the fact that she was there to let us know before it happened has been a blessing,” Cassidy said.

The Millers created a GoFundMe to help with the cost of the new service dog.

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