‘This is Eli’s dog’: Community helps raise $1,000 to train service dog

‘This is Eli’s dog:' Community helps raise money to train service dog

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - After a Saturday event at the Colonial Heights Farmer’s Market, one family is $1,000 closer to their goal.

As a four-year-old from Chester continues to battle and overcome medical challenges, the community has come together to help pay for the costs of training the family’s service dog.

“It is going to be a huge release and relief off of us and more importantly independence for Eli, this is not our dog, this is Eli’s dog, 100 percent," said Scott Clark, Eli’s dad.

Eli is medically fragile, immunocompromised and suffers from respiratory issues and seizures, his father, and mother Melissa says the seizures have gotten worse.

“Our journey right now is a journey of progress, and the ease we have with Koda - having that security that we know someone is there to help us and alert us when he had his seizures,” explained Melissa. “Last Monday when his pulse oximeter went off, he was actively seizing, and we had to call 9-1-1 at 3 in the morning. If we had Koda we would have been able to start ahead of time, and we would have known how long he was seizing because we had no idea. We would have been able to start rescue meds, but we spent a week in the hospital."

Koda is an AKC registered Yellow Labrador Retriever, and his major tasks will be Seizure Alert and Aspiration Help. He will go through 2 years of intense training to become Eli’s service dog.

“This is especially important for Eli because he is nonverbal and unable to tell us when he is not feeling well. When Eli has a seizure, we have no warning signs, they normally last over an hour, and have gone South quickly," the family explained in their site helpforeli.com. “If the caregiver has warning ahead of time, they can be ready for the episode or treat before the seizure starts.”

Koda is being trained by Hanna Bareihs with Smart SENSES Dog Training. She will work in person and virtually with Koda, so he will be able to step in to help Eli before, during and after a seizure.

“When Eli seizes, Scott and Melissa’s big job right now is to collect odor from sweat. We can swap scents and we freeze that for up to 6 months. We pull that out and we work with that all of the time,” said Bareihs. “Eli’s scent seizures should be the most rewarding thing in his entire life because it’s the hardest thing he will do.”

Koda’s training will officially begin with Hanna on Nov. 17, and the cost over 2 years will be roughly $20,000.

The Clarks say the community has continued to step up for them, now raising $2,700 so far. HelpforEli.com was created to help drive donations to help with the training costs.

One-thousand of those dollars came from a fundraiser, led in part by IronClad Coffee Truck, who set up camp at the Colonial Heights Farmer’s Market to raise money on Saturday.

The Clarks say Gochee Labs and Pawtree also partnered for the fundraiser, and all commission from the sales went go to Koda’s training.

“We have known the Clarks about 15 years now, they are people with two of the biggest hearts we know. We love Scott and Melissa and Eli," said Ryan O’Rourke of Ironclad Coffee Roasters. “We are donating every single penny — not trying to cover our costs — it’s going to help with Koda’s training.”

O’Rourke says IronClad is grateful for the chance to help the Clark’s in some way.

“I’m speechless I don’t know what to say, it is overwhelming the amount of support we are getting,” said Scott Clark.

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