Searching for a service dog: Kansas City woman seeks life-changi - KCTV5 News

Searching for a service dog: Kansas City woman seeks life-changing companion

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A Kansas City woman with a disability believes a service dog could help her live independently. (KCTV5) A Kansas City woman with a disability believes a service dog could help her live independently. (KCTV5)
At any given moment, Karlee Smith's world could go dark. (KCTV5) At any given moment, Karlee Smith's world could go dark. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

At any given moment, Karlee Smith's world could go dark. 

She suffers from seizures, sometimes three or more a week. They come at any given moment -- while she is crossing the street or cooking at her stove.

She spoke with KCTV5 News two days after an episode in her living room caused her to fall, breaking her television and injuring her back.

"It really puts my life at risk," Smith said. "It makes my life difficult not knowing when I'm going to have one."

Smith said the seizures are the result of the abuse she suffered as a child, called post-traumatic epilepsy. As an adult, she lives independently - without support from parents or friends - with a disability that places her in constant jeopardy.

Smith's difficulties recently reached a new zenith when she had a seizure at a bus stop. She says she blacked out, then woke up to find her backpack gone, as well as the wallet and laptop inside. When she told her doctor about it, he suggested something Smith hadn't previously considered.

"He said, 'Karlee you'd be a good candidate for a service dog,'" Smith recalled.

That was more than a year ago when Smith's search began. But after researching types of service animals and the various training programs available, she soon discovered that obtaining one would be much more difficult than she realized.

Service animals have proved to be reliable, and life-changing companions for individuals with epilepsy. A dog's acute sense of smell can pick up on the chemical changes in the human body that precedes a seizure.

Susan Bass trains dogs for this task at Canine Specialty Training in Independence. 

"We're actually teaching the dog to notice the change and do something about it," Bass said, noting that a well-timed nudge or lick from a dog could signal someone like Karlee to move to a safe location or call for help.

That level of training can take months-hours of careful training, hands-on interaction and thousands of dollars.

Smith's search led her to a non-profit in Concordia, KS called Canine Assistance Rehabilitation Education and Services (CARES). A dog like the one she needed would cost $3,500.

Smith reached out to local animal advocates for help and told her story to Britton Hunter, who runs Friends of KC Animals.

"I had never dealt with a service dog situation before," Hunter said. "[Smith] is a strong individual who wants to feel independent and safe."

Hunter helped Smith raise enough money to cover the initial cost of the dog and find a ride to Concordia. But she is still working to raise money for the continued training and care for her animal, which she will be able to bring home later in March.

Smith hopes her new dog will allow her to live an independent life with the added security of knowing when a seizure is about to hit. She wanted to share her story to shed light on her disability, and the struggles people like her face in trying to find help.

For her, a dog represents security, a light in the dark.

Smith is raising money for her training through Friends of KC Animals. To learn about their organization, click here.

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