Danielle Sharp is a local child just 3½ years old, but she's already had to overcome more obstacles in her life than most people we likely know.
Born with a defect known as gastroschisis, she's been in and out of surgery and now depends upon three medical packs with pumps attached to her body for survival. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Forever.
Today her world is limited to the two-foot reach of hoses that form the lifeline between her and those packs. In the event of a system failure, an alarm sounds, making time of the essence for either addressing the fault or getting a backup in place.
An eight-month-old Dalmatian named "Cinder" is eager to enter Danielle's world and help change it for the better. In order to do this, the dog Cinder our help.
Cinder can be trained to carry Danielle's medical packs. This would mean that Danielle could go to school right here in Saline just like other little boys and girls her age.
Cinder can also learn the unique sound of the alarms on those packs — and know the difference between that and all sorts of other confusing sounds that are part of our everyday lives, from sirens on fire trucks to custom ring tones on the smartphones we can't seem to do without.
Fantastic as all this may seem, it is very doable and is quite commonly done with dogs. Smart and intuitive as Cinder has already shown herself to be, however, she still needs to complete a highly specialized, seven-month "service dog" course that is far beyond the sort of obedience programs with which most people are familiar.
Rightly so: Danielle's life will literally depend upon Cinder.
Danielle's mother, Dr Brooke Sharp (who many of us know through New Era Chiropractic downtown), shared a bit about her daughter's situation during the last Saline Area Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast. She introduced us to Cinder that morning.
Most service dogs come to families having already been trained. But when Dr Sharp started out on the typical agency path she was told that those offerings weren't equipped to support a three-year-old with disabilities such as Danielle's.
By happenstance, Dr Sharp subsequently met a professional specializing in purebred Dalmatians, one of which had just delivered a litter of six. Moreover, "Siren," Cinder's mother, had herself been a therapy dog; Cinder's father "Scorch" was champion agility dog. If you're sensing a pattern with these names, there is one: Being Dalmatians, these canines all get firehouse-related tags.
After adopting Cinder, a highly specialized program offered by K9 Heights in Warren Michigan was identified. Cinder is scheduled to go there in March, spend seven intense months with a dedicated trainer on-site, then report for duty with the Sharp family right here in Saline.
Now it's our turn.
It will cost $14,000 to put Cinder through this program, and donations from you and me are needed to help make that happen.
The good news is that a little over 25% of the money has already been raised, and that means the dog can start with K9 Heights in March of 2018 as planned. It's also good to know that this fee includes lifetime training, meaning that Cinder can return to K9 Heights at any time in the future, at no additional cost, for additional training any time it's needed — for example, to support Danielle with travel by air, if that comes along down the way.
You can donate right now online to support this through a special Go Fund Me page that's been setup at the following link:
Additionally, First United Methodist Church of Saline will be hosting a special fundraiser on Saturday, March 10 from 5:00pm to 8:00pm to support Cinder's training.
Every donation helps and I thank you for considering this cause.