By Dan Danaher
CHARLIE, the Great Dane who became an international hero after a story in last week’s Clare Champion, is to be honoured with a national award.
The two-year-old gentle giant, who has captured the hearts and imagination of people around the world, for his ability to detect when a Killaloe toddler is going to have a seizure, will be officially recognised by the Irish Great Dane (IGD) Club at a ceremony in Dublin.
The IGD club, which is affiliated to the Irish Kennel Club, will present Charlie with a national merit award in the National Show Centre, possibly next March.
This is just one example of the phenomenal response to last week’s Clare Champion story where Arabella Scanlan outlined the dog’s ability to detect her daughter Brianna’s frequent seizures, up to 20 minutes before the start of each episode.
Following a week of national and international headlines, Arabella told The Clare Champion she is overwhelmed with all the support and good wishes generated by the story.
Having joined forces with Deirdre Cullinan from Ahane, whose three-year-old daughter, Mia, is also being treated for epilepsy, they have now raised over €15,000, just €3,000 short of the €18,000 needed to purchase an ambulatory EEG machine, which has been sanctioned by the University Hospital, Limerick.
Local businesses and householders donated food, refreshments and water for the fundraising charity ride held on Sunday, which attracted 86 participants.
Arabella was delighted with the attendance considering there were four other charity rides taking place within a 20-mile radius that day.
Arabella has received unsolicited donations from people she doesn’t know and was greatly touched by the generosity of an elderly woman in Oranmore who sent money.
“It melted me. I thought how kind for this woman to give me part of her pension. She sent it in a letter marked ‘Brianna Lynch, Killaloe, County Clare’.
“I am bewildered by the huge support. I didn’t realise so many people suffered from epilepsy. People on the street are coming up to me and saying thank you very much, I have epilepsy, or my son has epilepsy. People are so thankful that people are speaking about it. I didn’t realise that either.
“Brianna had another epileptic fit on Tuesday and it put the whole need for an EEG machine back into perspective again.
“Brianna has seizures where she bends forward in a fencing type position; she goes completely stiff, is buckled in two and can’t be moved. Without any warning, she can be also thrown backwards like she has been given a jolt of an electric shock and can slap her head off the floor.”
Arabella also explained how Brianna could be in the middle of an absent seizure beside her. “Her eyes could be open but she is not blinking. She could be on another planet. You will only notice it when her lips go blue.
“When Charlie senses a seizure is about to happen, he gets very giddy and starts to go around Brianna in a circle to alert her that there is something going on.
“Charlie looks at me as if to say ‘mom what will I do, I need help’. I know that is what he is trying to say. It might sound stupid but I know by the look of him.
“I ignored him for so long because I didn’t know what he was doing. Then Charlie would stand beside Brianna to protect her. The other dogs know that Brianna is different but it frightens them so they run off,” she said.
The older Great Dane, Nelson (12), part wolf Shepard/ Shiloh and her Boston terrier, Milo do a runner any time Brianna is having a seizure.
“All the dogs know she is different. They have all picked up on that. In hindsight, the minute we brought Brianna home from the hospital, they scarpered. We just thought it was because it was a new baby but they haven’t done that with any of the other children,” she added.
The family put it down to Charlie being a pup and of a similar age to Brianna when he arrived. Charlie and Brianna always got on very well.
Clare Ryan of the Irish Great Dane Club, who is also the breeder, acknowledged Charlie’s protective sense is surprising for any breed of dog.
“Great Danes are known for their temperament. They are known to be solid family members. They are very good with kids and adults alike and are dogs that like human company, as well as dog company. It shows that pedigree dogs can really do amazing things. To have a dog with a temperament like this is fantastic.
“This story has captured the hearts and imagination of the country. I have an incredible amount of people saying how fantastic this really is,” she said.
Ms Ryan bred Charlie out of a champion bitch and passed him onto Arabella when he was about seven or eight months old. There were 10 pups in the litter and some of these participated in shows as far away as Greece. Some are in the UK and some in Ireland.