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Tara S. Kerpelman/MEDILL

The Slobodian family have two children with allergies. Three-year old Kate needed emergency room care nine times last year due to allergic reactions. The family recently heard about allergy service dogs and Kate's parents are raising money to buy and train a dog so that Kate can go to preschool without fear.

A nose for food: 3-year old needs allergy service dog

by Tara S. Kerpelman
Aug 28, 2009


Tara S. Kerpelman/MEDILL

Rex, a Portuguese Water dog, at Unleashed in Evanston, a training center and boarding house for dogs. This is one of the breeds the Slobodians could get trained as an allergy service dog in Colorado to keep Kate away from foods she is deathly allergic to: peanuts, eggs, dairy and peas.

Three-year-old Kate Slobodian, who is deathly allergic to some foods, awaits a new kind of service dog to keep her safe and ease her family’s anxieties about her condition. The dog will sniff out peanuts or other allergens that threaten her.

Her parents Ann and Brad Slobodian first heard from family and frends about Angel Service Dogs, a training center in Colorado where puppies are specially trained for allergy-sniffing expertise. But with Brad out of a job, raising $15,000 to get and train a puppy will not be easy. And there’s one more challenge ahead – Kate and her dad are both allergic to dogs.

But Dr. Anju Peters, an allergist/immunologist with Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said pet allergies are more mild and can often be kept under control with over-the-counter medication. So getting an allergy service dog should still be feasible.

The Slobodians, who live in Lindenhurst, are planning a fundraiser to help with the costs. In the meantime, in addition to routine allergy medications, the family travels with an arsenal of emergency ones and even a breathing device for Kate.