Detector dog: Spaniel, poodle mix will help keep Palisade teen safe from deadly reactions to peanuts, nuts and seedsThursday, July 24, 2008Connie Jo Discoe
Jasmine Lawless of Palisade is severely allergic to nuts, peanuts and seeds, and will benefit from a dog named "Stuie" who detects and alerts his handler to those products. Jasmine also suffers from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which is triggered by corn and corn products. The Lawless family has learned to read food labels religiously. They eat lots of meats, chicken, vegetables, fruits, pasta and Sarah Lee or homemade bread. Acceptable treats are "Sweet Tart" candies, Oreo cookies and milk chocolate Hershey candy bars. Despite her diet restrictions, Jasmine and her brother, 13-year-old Jeremiah, enjoy the challenges of cooking.(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette, courtesy photo)[Click to enlarge] PALISADE -- Jasmine Lawless won't be able to take her new dog to soccer games because Stuie will surely want to join in the fun.
That's because Stuie's reward for detecting the nuts, peanuts and seeds that threaten Jasmine's life is to play no-holds-barred and 90-miles-an-hour with a soccer ball.
Seventeen-year-old Jasmine has severe allergies to peanuts, nuts and seeds. "I can't eat them. I can't be around them," Jasmine said. "I react to eating them, smelling them and touching them."
Jasmine reacts with hives and with blisters that leave behind scars. Her throat swells shut and she goes into anaphylactic shock. She's on a first-name basis with many of the ambulance personnel in and around Palisade. She's been in the hospital too many times to count, Jasmine's mother, Connie, says.
After a severe reaction, it takes Jasmine five to seven days to return to normal.
Connie said one of her daughter's most severe reactions came after someone who had been eating sunflower seeds breathed on Jasmine. Another terrible reaction happened when someone opened the wrapper of a peanut butter cookie near Jasmine. In class, a fellow student had a pecan in her pocket, and Jasmine went into shock.
Jasmine can't even touch a grocery cart that's been used by someone who handled seeds, peanuts or nuts.
The family has given up on eating out; Jasmine suffered a reaction when someone in the next booth had nuts on her ice cream.
"Even when Jasmine's not with Gregg and me, we can't take the chance of getting peanut protein on us and bringing it home," Connie said.
Connie has home-schooled Jasmine and her 13-year-old brother, Jeremiah, so she can control Jasmine's environment.
Jasmine's first reaction happened when she was 10 months old. She'll turn 18 on Aug. 28.
"There are no precautions she can take on a daily basis," Connie said, other than to avoid peanuts, nuts and seeds.
Jasmine seldom goes out. "I really have to be careful. My meds and a cell phone are always with me," Jasmine said. "I'm never alone."
Stuie the peanut detection dog will detect the peanuts, nuts and seeds that have kept Jasmine virtually locked in a world at home.
Stuie is a 3-year-old springer spaniel-poodle mix who was rescued by the Southern Star Ranch of Florence, Texas, and trained to sniff out and alert his handler to nuts and seeds and products made with nuts, seeds or peanut by-products. Even in trace amounts ... even if the product is in an unopened package.
Stuie has been trained specifically to detect 10 of Jasmine's allergies, and will point at an offending item.
Jasmine's excited about Stuie. "He's OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) when he finds peanut products," she said. "He wants to work all the time. I'm going to need to tell him, 'You need to take a break'."
Stuie's reward for finding peanuts and nuts is playing with a favorite ball. A video from the Southern Star Ranch shows Stuie playing wildly with his ball, chasing it around and around, never quite cornering it because it's way too big to fit in his mouth.
Connie and Jasmine believe that Stuie will make life so much easier for the Lawless family. Stuie's a service dog, identified by his brightly-colored vest. He will be able to enter all establishments, and steer Jasmine away from potential danger.
Jasmine foresees more independence ... developing more confidence. She says, "I'll be able to go to the book store in the mall ... I can't wait."
Insurance won't pay for Stuie, who is going to cost the Lawlesses $10,000, plus the expenses of trainers to come from Texas for a week or two.
The dog is expected to arrive Aug. 10, and Southern Star Ranch personnel will acquaint Stuie with the family dog, a fluffy dust-mop named "Gizmo," and train Jasmine to work with Stuie.
"We've had some donations, and we really really appreciate them," Connie said. She, her husband, Gregg, and Jasmine and Jeremiah are also more than willing to discuss fund-raising ideas.
Anyone wanting to help Jasmine and her family is encouraged to call, (308) 285-3592.
Accounts to help Jasmine have been opened, in Connie's name, at Pioneer Community Federal Credit Union in Palisade and AmFirst Bank, Hayes Center and McCook.