Migraine Alert Dog: Follow up on Hannah

Migraine alert service dog

This post is a follow up for Hannah’s migraine alert dog. She is a service dog that is trained to alert migraine spikes and aid in various situations.

If you remember, I helped with a GoFundMe campaign for a chronic migraine sufferer, Hannah, to receive a service dog. Hannah is  17 years old.  She has been plagued with migraines which have had serious side effects and consequences on her life.  Last year she was homebound schooled due to the severity of her migraines.  Because of this, Hannah and her mom searched out a dog training program that specializes in scent training.  It is very rare to find a place that can train a migraine dog and Pawsabilities Unleashed was a Godsend to their family.

How do I get a Migraine Alert Dog?

After learning about Pawsabilitties Unleashed, I had a few questions. The first step to getting a migraine alert service dog through the organization is to have a need for one.

How do you train a migraine alert dog?

“We use force-free, positive reinforcement training methods in our programs to help build a trusting relationship with your dog so your dog will want to work for you.  We train you to work with your new service dog to help continuously enhance your service dog’s skill set so they can adapt to your changing needs for a lifetime of service.”

How do I get a migraine alert dog?

​”We train and place service dogs based on the individual person.  Once we review your application and determine if you are a candidate for our training program, you will be contacted and informed about how to proceed.”

​How much does a service dog cost?

“Our Service Dogs range from $7,500 to $15,000 depending on the program you need and the training your dog will need to help with your disability. “

​How long does it take to train a service dog?

“The amount of time it takes to obtain a service dog also depends on the program you need and the training dog will need.  This is anywhere from 3 months to a year.”

Meet Piper

Hannah has had Piper for 8 months now.  As most dogs do, Piper has become part of the family.  But this dog is so much more!  Piper alerts Hannah of a spike in migraine and gets her to a safe place.   As I do, Hannah lives at about a 5 (pain level) at all times and Piper alerts her if it will spike.

She is trained to smell the chemistry change in Hannah before Hannah feels the migraine spiking which allows her time to take her medication and get to a safe location before falling. Because of Piper, Hannah is now able to go to school for part of the week.  She was able to go to Homecoming with her boyfriend (and Piper) and participate in more than she had previously. Piper is trained to tell Hannah to take her meds.

Piper has been a lifesaver to Hannah and provided her so much support.  During one of Hannah’s episodes, she fell in the bathroom.  Hannah’s mom received a phone call from Hannah that was unrecognizable and jumbled.  When Hannah fell, Piper was able to retrieve the phone (although she was not formally trained to do so) because Hannah was unable to get up.  After Hannah’s mom rushed home, she found Hannah laying on the floor with Piper standing by her side.  Piper had been dropping a stuffed animal on Hannah’s face to keep her conscious.  This is only one example of how important Piper has been to Hannah and her family.

Make a Wish

Hannah now has been granted a wish from Make a Wish!  Her condition is progressive and debilitating which qualified her for a wish.  It was a long process of meetings with her doctors and back and forth between Make a Wish.  Hannah’s wish needed to not only accommodate Hannah’s medical needs but also be cognizant of Piper’s needs.  The family will embark on a cruise in January!

Migraine Alert Dog

Hannah’s story can teach so many lessons.  The fact that a service dog can be trained to smell an oncoming migraine is absolutely astonishing and encouraging to me.  As you all know, I am a huge dog lover and understand the power of a pet. (see my dog story)  I hope that this inspires parents to search out more options for their children who suffer and to advocate in every way possible.  Receiving a Wish or a migraine alert service dog are options that I didn’t know existed for migraine sufferers.  I hope that by sharing Hannah’s story so many can learn and be inspired to find more answers or be lead down another path.

Sarah Rathsack

I tell stories of My Migraine Life. I'm a mom, wife, teacher, and chronic migraine sufferer. I tell my stories and advocate in my life searching for health in a positive honest way.
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  1. Debbie on March 18, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Awesome story I never knew about this program- Thanks for getting the word out- What a blessing Piper is to Hannah!

  2. Kim Leonoudakis on March 21, 2016 at 11:41 am

    That’s amazing! So happy she has Piper!

  3. Ben on March 27, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Hannah has truly been blessed with Piper!

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