TEMPE, Ariz. — A Tempe mother said she has her daughter’s school and community to thank for helping bring her child an important new best friend.
For second grader Suzy Brunk, 8, of Broadmor Elementary School near Broadway Road and Mill Avenue, growing up hasn’t always been easy according to her mother, Jaime Arredondo.
“She has (autism) — with autism comes development delays (and) she’s non-verbal,” Arredondo said.
Alongside her autism, Arredondo said Brunk also deals with epilepsy, which sometimes brings on severe seizures.
Everything changed though for Brunk and Arredondo at the beginning of this year when a new addition to the family arrived at their front door.
“Jan. 9 they open the door and said, ‘Surprise, this is your dog,'” she said about the day AZ Goldens, a company that trains service dogs, delivered Irish, a 2 1/2 year-old Golden Retriever that can detect when Suzy is about to have a seizure.
“(Irish) will notify the teacher, he’ll go up and nudge her and come back Suzy and go nudge her, (then) come back to let (the teacher) know that Suzy is about to have an episode,” she said.
Arredondo said Irish is able to detect seizures through scent. During a previous epileptic episode, Arredondo took the shirt Suzy had been wearing, froze it and sent it to AZ Goldens. That shirt was then used to train Irish to recognize a specific scent that is a telltale sign of a pending seizure.
Detecting a seizure early is critical in making sure Suzy does not hit her head or injure herself during an episode, Arredondo said.
For nine months, Arredondo and her family saved money and sought help from the community to afford a service dog because they often cost tens of thousands of dollars. In Irish’s case, he cost a total of $22,000.