HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Fergie the WAFF 48 Service Dog-in-Training will become a life-saving member of an Alabama family. The Huntsville family raising Fergie has extra incentive to make sure she gets top marks. Their lives were changed by a service dog.
Terri and Kevin Guy have the all-American family including a son and a daughter, and the family dog. But the dog, Buckmaster, is not your ordinary dog.
"Buck is trained to go get help if Madison has a seizure," said Terri Guy. Madison Guy has epilepsy and her seizures can come at any time.
That's when Buck is at his best. He alerts the family, or if Madison is out somewhere by herself, he lets someone nearby know what's going on so that she can get the medical attention she needs.
Terry Guy says Madison started having seizures when she was two-years-old. "She has had seizures since she was two years old. We have had her to a lot of different hospitals- UAB, Johns Hopkins, and Cleveland Clinic. Surgery is just not an option right now for Madison. We just have to live our lives and Buck makes that possible."
Buck was part of the original graduating class from Service Dogs Alabama. The organization takes up to 24 months training service dogs.
[Learn more about Service Dogs Alabama]
"We had been looking at costs for a trained dog and it could be somewhere around $15,000-$20,000 and that's a tough pill to swallow and this particular charity will donate the dog to you," said Kevin Guy. "There's actually several vets sprinkled across the state of Alabama that volunteer their services for vaccines, for neutering, spaying and no charge to the charity."
It all starts with the puppy raiser, like the Guys. From there, the dogs go to a prison where they work with an inmate. That training is intense. They sleep in a crate at the end of the inmate's bunk and spend all day on a leash learning commands and manners.
"These inmates who work with this program, they get such a sense of purpose," said Terri Guy. "And the really neat thing about this program is that when they are released from prison, Service Dogs Alabama has a zero percent recidivism rate which means they do not re-offend."
At that point, trainers determine the dog's specialty: medical, PTSD or classroom. And then, after two years, the dog is placed.
The Guys say Buck has changed their lives and gives Madison the security she needs to thrive. And they want to help give that feeling to another family.
Fergie, just five months old, is still learning her basic commands, but she is showing lots of poise and promise. In the upcoming weeks, she will enjoy meeting new people and take part in lessons about service dogs. It's all part of her training.
"We have Fergie for a few months. Our job is to socialize her and let her get used to different sounds and things she will encounter in her everyday life as she's doing her job so she won't be distracted," said Terri Guy. "I can't wait to see who she goes to because that's always the fun part."
Because in about 19 months, Fergie will become the life-saving and life-changing member of someone else's family.
Kevin Guy says letting go is bitter-sweet. "Whenever they get the stamp of service dog, you can be assured that they are not going to be aggressive, that they're going to act properly in a public setting and that they're going to do the service that they're trained to do. It'll help us turn her loose, knowing that she's destined for great things."
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