Epileptics introduced to their future seizure response dogs in Greentree

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GREENTREE, Pa. - Seizure response dogs from Michigan were introduced to their soon-to-be families Saturday in Greentree.

Melissa Szabo and Sam Cooper each benefited from a program that pairs dogs with epileptics.

The program, called The Oscar Project, was established in honor of Michael Zupancic, who suffered from epilepsy and died at the age of 46. His dog was a Labrador named Oscar.

The Oscar Project helps pay for the training of dogs and then matches them with people who suffer from seizures.

Peggy Beem-Jelley, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation, said, “For some reason, we don't know exactly the science behind it, but we know that through their sense of smell they are able to detect seizure activity.”

Szabo, 14, an eighth-grade student at Bethel Park Middle School has suffered from seizures since she was 6 years old. Her helpful four-legged companion will be Gracie the Labrador.

Cooper, a 32-year-old father of two, started having seizures when he was hit by an ATV when he was 8 years old. After having brain surgery about 5 months ago to lessen his seizures, he will receive a golden doodle named Shadow through the program.

“It’s going to be a relief for my wife, parents and people who drive me around. I'll get my independence back,” said Cooper.

The dogs will spend some time at home with their new families and in public places, like the Pirates game on Sunday, before going back to Michigan on Tuesday to complete their training, which takes about a year.