FAMILY: Kalila Vukelic and her parents Janine and Zenko are on a mission to raise funds for Kalila's smart pup.
FAMILY: Kalila Vukelic and her parents Janine and Zenko are on a mission to raise funds for Kalila's smart pup. Molly Hancock

KALILA'S QUEST: Looking for a smart pup

KALILA Vukelic is on a quest for a smart companion who will assist her and alert her parents of oncoming seizures.

Her family, school and community are joining the mission to raise the $20,000 required for a smart pup.

This specially trained seizure response assistance dog will make life a little easier for the Tingoora teenager with a rare neurological disorder called Rett Syndrome.

Kalila's mother Janine Vukelic said the smart pups are trained to have the ability to detect if a person is going to have a seizure.

"They train them by using the clothing she's had seizures in so the dog can recognise the scent," she said.

Kalila has seizures almost every day, but due to the non-verbal nature of her condition she is unable to clearly communicate if she feels an oncoming seizure.

Not-for-profit Sunshine Coast charity Smart Pups, who trains mostly Labradors and golden retrievers for the job, has placed more than 140 assistance dogs across Australia.

Administration manager Kylie Gardiner said the dogs, which take 14 months to train, are known to alert a parent guardian up to 10 minutes prior to a seizure happening.

 

Kalila Vukelic is raising funds for a mobility assistance dog like Smart Pup Kyra, but the dog will also be trained to detect oncoming seizures.
Kalila Vukelic is raising funds for a mobility assistance dog like Smart Pup Kyra, but the dog will also be trained to detect oncoming seizures. Contributed

The training is based on the scent of the client and eventually the bond formed between the dog and their client.

"It's another tool, another set of eyes and another nose," Ms Gardiner said.

Early warnings for oncoming seizures means Kalila could be moved to a safer place to avoid dangerous accidents which may have resulted in banging her head or bruising her body.

Mrs Vukelic said a warning from a smart pup would allow Kalila's parents to move her to a bed or couch.

"When seizures do hit and her little limbs do thrash about, she's in a safe position," she said.

A smart pup will also be trained to comfort her after a seizure, as well as being a companion to reduce feelings of anxiety and isolation, as well as boost her self-esteem.

"Having a companion dog that's with her constantly, that will be a real comfort to her," Mrs Vukelic said.

Ms Gardiner said Kalila's dog would also be trained as a mobility assistance dog and fitted with a brace to assist with balance and manoeuvring.

The smart pup would be trained to help open and close doors, fetch items, turn lights on and off, push traffic light buttons and signal if the child is in danger.

Members of the community are invited to join the quest. For more information see how you can support Kalila's campaign.

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