Lewisburg child receives service dog

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Local supporters raised $39,000 to pay for Kadi, a golden retriever service dog for Ayden Orr.
Tribune photo by Scott Pearson

Friends, family, and community rallied around 5-year-old Ayden Orr at LifeSong Church on Friday, April 28, to celebrate both his birthday and the arrival of his service dog, Kadi.

Ayden has been diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy, which requires constant monitoring to avoid seizures. Before a seizure, his breathing stops. After his last event, doctors prescribed a seizure dog to monitor Ayden.

Dogs trained for this sort of work are not covered by insurance, however, and the cost for a trained dog was $39,000, leaving the family with a big financial mountain to climb.

Inspired, Mike Lee, pastor at LifeSong Church, said that they would raise the money in 30 days.

After that, Maree Orr said the money just started pouring in, from the church family, the Marshall County community, and beyond.

The Tribune ran a story on Ayden in February, followed by stories in the Columbia and Shelbyville papers, and people rallied in support.

The Marshall County Sub Deb sorority sold t-shirts. Children offered their piggy banks. A 90-year-old man in a nursing home in Shelbyville donated his birthday money.

Haley Henson, a 14-year-old in Shelbyville, who also has seizures, sold $500 of donuts in one day for Ayden.

One man anonymously contributed $20,000.

In a surprisingly short time, the $39,000 goal was met. The last money needed coming in on Ayden’s actual birthday in March.

“It’s very humbling that people were loving on him that had never met him,” Orr said. “She’s really, really good with him.”

Brian Daugherty, the founder of Arizona Goldens, had just left Lewisburg after his initial interview with the family when the final funds came in.

“Sometimes we just get pairs that click like this one,” said Daugherty.

Kadi responds to 65 different commands and is trained to nudge Ayden every eight to 12 minutes to make sure he is responsive.

While the process is not entirely understood, Daugherty said, it is believed that dogs recognize imminent seizures by smell liked to chemical changes in the body.

He said that each dog they train, for seizure detection or for law enforcement work, receives about 2,000 hours of training.

Daugherty stayed with the family for 10 days after the party at LifeSong for more training of both the dog and the family.

Orr reports that the boot camp period of training with Kadi has been exhausting, but is already beginning to show benefits.

“We are constantly in training,” she said.

Monitoring is showing that Ayden’s sleep is much deeper now that Kadi is in bed with him.

Once the boot camp is finished and Kadi fully certified, the family will head to Disneyworld thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

It will be their first vacation in years, Orr said, and allow Ayden a chance to see two of his favorite characters, Woody and Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story movies.

“It gives us time to breathe and enjoy the moment,” Orr said.