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BEAVER FALLS, Pa. (AP) — She had the pick of the litter. She chose the littlest one.
Hailey Dashio, 5, a mere sprite herself, felt sorry for the puppy, her mom said.
Despite her tender years, Hailey understands being tiny and having to struggle, for she has faced multiple health issues -- from food allergies to diabetes.
She presciently named her pup Angel as the service dog-in-training will soon become her guardian angel.
Friends at her church, Chippewa United Methodist, are conducting a fundraiser May 16 at its Community Life Center to raise money to train the German shepherd as a diabetic alert dog to signal for help when Hailey's blood sugar fluctuates too low or high -- especially when she's sleeping -- that can cause coma.
The dog is trained to identify hypoglycemic, or low blood sugar, scent changes to alert its handler or caretaker to check levels or take medication. Some dogs can even dial 911 on specially adapted telephones if no human is present.
The pup, donated by a church member and dog breeder who heard about Hailey's need, will become a member of the Harrison and Tammie Dashio family of Chippewa Township on June 6, once it's weaned from its mother.
After Angel and Hailey bond, Angel will go through obedience training and then advanced schooling to become a service dog.
The family still is exploring certified training options, but Tammie said a likely choice will be a center in West Chester, Pa., about 25 miles west of Philadelphia. Besides assisting with Angel's training, proceeds from the fundraiser also will offset transportation costs.
Hailey, her parents said, will be involved with the training at each phase to solidify their partnership.
Hailey's likes are typical of a girl her age. Pink, purple, black and white are her favorite colors. Blond hair pulled in a ponytail, she's stylishly dressed in black leggings, a zebra-print top accented with a ribbon of hot pink at the waist, and pale pink Mary Janes.
She attends Chippewa United Methodist Preschool, but Tammie and Harrison plan to home-school their daughter this fall.
Hailey loves zebras, especially Marty the Zebra in the "Madagascar" film series by DreamWorks Animation. And of course, Olaf the snowman from Walt Disney Animation Studio's "Frozen."
She likes gymnastics and swimming.
Watermelon and cherries are her favorite foods, but because of allergies she must steer clear of dairy, eggs, soy and gluten -- a complex protein found in wheat and other grains -- because of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes digestive problems.
Throw in her Type 1 diabetes, and dietary challenges multiply.
"She's on a very strict diet," Tammie said, but added "she's good about it."
Her father said Hailey "lives in a very controlled environment."
"It's somewhat isolating," agreed her mom.
Shy and clingy, Hailey is taciturn, offering barely audible, one-word answers to questions.
Her parents surmise a lot of her reticence stems from fear and distrust of strangers, especially those tied to medical professions because of the exhaustive, sometimes painful, diagnostic tests she's undergone to diagnose her numerous medical problems. Hailey also has asthma, anemia and an autoimmune thyroid condition.
Consequently, visits to doctors' offices -- even watching television shows involving hospitals -- are traumatic for her, Tammie said, causing anxiety.
Hailey's blood sugar levels must be checked frequently, including when she's sleeping. On a good night, Tammie said, she'll usually check at midnight, 3 a.m., 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., which means sleep for both is sporadic.
"Her poor, little fingertips," said Tammie. "It's so sad."
Hailey also receives insulin injections every two hours, Tammie said, and before meals and snacks.
"Tammie has done a phenomenal job," Harrison said of his wife's efforts to manage their daughter's health, and attributes that care and attentiveness as to why Hailey is doing as well as she is.
But a medical alert service dog would go a long way in giving the Dashios peace of mind, said Darcy Straley, who's organizing the May 16 fundraiser.
Beyond signaling when she's in diabetic distress, the dog will provide "companionship and help her with her anxiety," Tammie said, especially on those unnerving trips to doctors' offices.
Tammie and Harrison said they're grateful for the outpouring of support they've received from their church family and friends.
"Every penny helps," Tammie said.
Information from: Beaver County Times, http://www.timesonline.com/
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