Manchester girl's new weapon against seizures: Calipari the dog

Calipari the service dog helps to protect Hannah Sichelstiel. (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times)

MANCHESTER — There's a new Manchester local in town. His name is Calipari, he has four legs and he's covered in fur.

But for the Sichelstiel family, Calipari, a golden retriever-Labrador mix, is more than just a family dog.


Calipari has been trained to detect seizures, a common occurrence for Hannah Sichelstiel, who has a rare epileptic disorder known as Dravet syndrome.

Hannah, who attends North Carroll Middle School, has an average of 14 seizures a month, said her mother, Lisa Sichelstiel. Eventually, with more training, Calipari will be able to alert when he senses that Hannah is about to have a seizure, as much as four hours ahead of time.


"He's really starting to bond with her, to follow her everywhere," Sichelstiel said.

The dog is able to alert that Hannah is having a seizure and comfort her. When Hannah begins to seize, Calipari jumps on her and licks her to help bring her out of the seizure, Sichelstiel said.

In order to detect the seizures, 4 Paws for Ability, the organization that trains and provides the dogs, trained Calipari with Hannah's scent while she's having a seizure, said Kelly Camm, spokeswoman for the company.

People give off a scent, and medical emergencies cause a person to excrete a different scent, which a dog can detect, Camm said.


"They just have an extra set of eyes and ears, and in this case a nose, to help them handle the disability," she said.

And to get to the point that the dog can detect and pre-alert to an upcoming seizure requires a lot of training, Camm said.

"A lot of practice between the scent you're supposed to alert to versus the scent you're not supposed to alert to," she said.

It also meant a lot of training and a test for Sichelstiel, who is the dog's official handler. She had to go to the mall with Calipari and perform commands, including making sure the dog heeled and that he followed commands when he was around kids, among other exercises, Sichelstiel said.

"Every day, I've had to train with him," she said.

Calipari can go out in public with Hannah, and after three or four months, he will likely be able to attend class with her too, Sichelstiel said.

Having Calipari has been a relief to Sichelstiel because it means she doesn't have to be right next to Hannah all the time. It'll be better when the dog can pre-alert because it'll allow her to prepare for Hannah's next seizure.

But the dog didn't come cheap. In order to purchase Calipari, the Sichelstiel family had to raise $15,000 for the dog, a project that took some time.

Sichelstiel said she had the idea three years ago and later contacted 4 Paws in March 2015 to discuss getting a dog for Hannah.

It was a community effort, Sichelstiel said, adding that many local businesses and organizations, including Manchester Valley High School, helped raise the money to purchase Hannah's dog.

Although the price of the dog was expensive, Sichelstiel said it was worth it, noting that Hannah won't be able to do many of the activities most people would be able to do, like drive.

Meeting Calipari on Jan. 23 was emotional. So far, Hannah and the dog have gotten along great, Sichelstiel said.

That's what 4 Paws wants, Camm said.

"It's that constant best friend," she said. " The nonjudgmental, always excited to see you best friend."


Community support

The following community organizations donated to help the Sichelstiel family:


•Shipley Jewelers

•Hill Development Group

•Tree of Friends Foundation

•St. John's Woman in Mission

•Manchester Baptist Church

•Manchester Pharmacy

•Brother's Pizza

•Hanover Pediatrics

•Miller's Market

•Jill's-Anita Wagner

•Hubcap Guy

•Salon Terese

•Thomas Tree Farm

•Winthrope Builders

•Melrose Mini-storage

•Pizza Garden

•Hoffman and Comfort


•Carroll Community Foundation

•Ebb Valley Elementary School

•National Honor Society at Manchester Valley High School

•Hughes Trash Removal

•Carroll County Contracting, Inc.

•DWM Roofing