Stryder Doescher has returned home with his new therapy dog Keebler

by: KEVIN SPERL - Stryder Doescher's service dog, Keebler, provides stability, allowing Stryder to easily stand.

Stryder Doescher returned from a two-week visit to Xenia, Ohio, and did something he hasn’t been able to do for quite some time: Sleep in his own bed.

His mom, Angela, had traveled with him and didn’t have to do something she's been doing for quite some time. Check in on Stryder during the night.

The reason? Keebler is in the house!

Keebler is a 1-year-old Golden Retriever service dog, trained at the Ohio-based 4 Paws for Ability, to pre-alert when Stryder is prone to having seizures.

Stryder is subject to at least four types of seizures. There are the simple ones, lasting 10 to 15 seconds, that most wouldn’t notice. There are the “drop” seizures that find Stryder collapsing to the ground. There are the “Tonic-clonic's,” the violent shaking seizures most associate with epilepsy. And, finally, there are the silent, dangerous ones that occur at night, potentially causing progressive brain damage.

“Stryder has a one out of 150 chance of dying from what is called Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP),” explained Angela, adding that there are more deaths from epilepsy than from breast cancer.

The trip to Ohio certainly wasn’t a vacation. It was two weeks of strenuous training, where Stryder and his mom met Keebler, learning to live with him, his commands and most importantly, to bond.

“You go there knowing it will be hard work,” said Angela, “But I didn’t think it would be that hard.”

There were few breaks, with mom and son learning Keebler's language and how to correct him when he would break a command.

But, the bond was immediate.

“Stryder was happy to use him as a pillow right away,” said Angela. “And Keebler alerted to his seizures on the second day of class, which I found amazing. Keebler was perfect from day one.”

Alerting is not the only service Keebler offers the Doeschers. Stryder can now play outside, go to the bathroom, stand up with confidence, and walk over uneven terrain, like curbing. All under Keebler's watchful eye.

“When Stryder is with Keebler, he doesn’t think about his pain,” said Angela. “So it helps to strengthen his muscles because he will walk more often.”

Anyone visiting Stryder and Keebler finds bonding with the dog to be easy.

“I call him my little Eeyore,” laughed Angela, “He is an old man trapped in a puppy’s body.”

Stryder is the only one who can play with him, however. The bond must be 100-percent with Stryder, but that doesn’t prevent Keebler from making sure that everyone in the house is happy.

As the two-week training came to a close, Angela was convinced that she had made the right decision about getting a therapy dog.

“Before we went to Ohio, I was having my doubts,” said Angela, asking herself if $20,000 for a dog was going to be worth it. “Now I believe he is worth twice that. Keebler and the training program has exceeded my expectations.”

And, before they knew it, it was off to a shopping mall for their final exam.

Stryder dropped Keebler's leash to see if he would wander off. He didn’t. Stryder walked by strollers to see if Keebler would get distracted. He didn’t. Stryder bought some ham from a Subway shop and dropped it on the floor to see if Keebler would eat it. He didn’t. Stryder commanded that he lay down next to the ham to see if he would cave in and eat it. He didn’t. And, finally, they worried if he would “do his duty” on the floor. He didn’t.

“Almost all the other dogs pooped on the floor,” laughed Angela. “Keebler did not become a member of the poop club! And, he has a great bladder!”

In a lighter moment, Keebler went into the mall photo booth for some souvenir photos with Stryder.

Then, it was time to come home to Prineville and settle back into their routine.

Only the routine has changed.

“I don’t have to be quite so awake anymore,” said Angela. “I'm not used to sleeping deeply, but at least I don’t have to get up and check on him. Keebler will come to our room and whimper if Stryder needs help.”

The doctor visits are back, only with Keebler in tow.

“Keebler barked while we were in the waiting room,” said Angela, describing how other people appeared to be wondering why it was happening. “I need to learn to say that he is a service dog and is alerting to Stryder.”

Stryder is back in school, and so is Keebler, the first service dog to go to school in Crook County.

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