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story.lead_photo.caption RACHEL DICKERSON/MCDONALD COUNTY PRESS Gracie Bowman of Pineville (left) needs a service dog to help with some of her medical issues. Her mother, Danea Key (right), is trying to raise the money to train a service dog.

The family of a 14-year-old Pineville girl wants to provide her with a service dog, but funding is a huge hurdle. They are asking the community for help. Gracie Bowman has had medical issues since birth, according to her mother, Danea Key.

When she was born, Gracie had severe jaundice, which required an additional nine days in the hospital being kept under a black light, Key said. She was held only during feedings, and this led to issues her parents would later learn were hyper-sensory issues. From the time she was six weeks old, she was diagnosed as being not developmentally on-target. She struggled with latching onto her bottle. As she grew, she struggled with sitting up, talking, walking, etc. She was behind, but she caught up in six months to a year, Key said. Gracie was in occupational therapy for learning to feed herself because her fine motor skills were shaky.

Around age 9 or 10, Gracie was diagnosed with essential tremors. The tremors started in her hands when she was little but spread throughout her body as she grew. She had trouble keeping food on her fork or holding a cup of water.

"It was really bad to the point that sometimes we were having to feed her," Key said. She said Gracie's doctor tried every combination of medications for the tremors to no avail.

Once they had exhausted the medications, it was time for plan B -- a deep brain stimulator. This is an implant that goes inside the brain with a lead down the neck and a battery in the chest. Gracie had the surgery in September 2018, and it was successful. Key said she cried the first time Gracie held a cup of water.

Following surgery, some of Gracie's other issues became more pronounced, Key said. Gracie had previously been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism.

"The autism became more pronounced after the surgery. Her mentality was showing a younger age. These were things she was struggling with prior, but was more pronounced after the implant," Key said.

Since Gracie was in the sixth grade, she has known she wanted a service dog. At that time she had a science teacher who had two service dogs at home and got permission to bring one of them, Snoopy, to school. The teacher noticed that while interacting with Snoopy, Gracie was more cooperative, more alert and not sleeping in class.

"It was a whole big change for her having the service dog there. He just took to Gracie and followed her from class to class," Key said.

The teacher decided when her female service dog got old enough, she would breed her and give the family a puppy, Key said.

Now, two and a half years later, the puppy is here. The family has a trainer picked out. Now there is just the matter of paying for the training, which is very expensive. Key said it will cost $25,000 to $30,000. A service dog alone could cost $3,000 to $5,000, she said.

"She was blessed to be gifted one," she said.

The puppy's name is Saber, and he is a registered AKC German Shepherd whose parents are both service dogs. Gracie calls him her "life-Saber."

Gracie suffers from anxiety, which a service dog can help with, Key said. She said that, right now, Gracie has to stick to a routine and it takes two to three days of coaching to prepare her to leave the house on a non-routine outing. They met a woman who suffered from anxiety and depression and was afraid to leave her home. She got a service dog and now leaves home without fear whenever she wants to, Key said.

"(Gracie) has a long road ahead of her to be able to live independently. She wants to work in the nursing field, get her driver's license. The dog will be trained to help with going out in public. He will be able to comfort her so it's not so intense when the anxiety starts kicking in," Key said.

The family is trying to do a T-shirt fundraiser and has also set up a donation page at www.supportful.com/gracie-needs-a-life-saber where community members may donate. The family will also have a booth set up at Jesse James Days next week where they will be selling dog supplies such as shampoos, collars, leashes and homemade dog treats.

There will also be puppies in training for sale. Friday and Saturday of Jesse James Days, they will have Saber there as well.

General News on 08/08/2019

Print Headline: Pineville Girl Needs Service Dog

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