Pets In Stores

October 7, 2020

It’s happening more and more often — nearly every time Milford resident Kara-Anne Canfield is in a store with Stella, her service dog, other dogs distract Stella, according to Canfield’s mother Sandy.

This can result in a life or death situation for Kara-Anne, 30, who suffers from mast cell activation disease (MCAD). Sandy Canfield wants to raise awareness to this issue and her daughter’s condition.

“We have been faced, over and over, with many stores that are allowing pets to come in, and it causes our service dog to be distracted,” said Sandy, adding sometimes the pet dogs nip or bark at Stella, a poodle and Basset Hound mix. “I’ll ask for the manager and I’m told no pets are allowed, but they won’t ask a customer if it’s a pet or service dog,” she said. “My goal as a mom is to spread the word about the disease and about service dogs.”

According to the ADA, businesses must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the business where customers are normally allowed to go. Typically, restaurants, stores, and other businesses with a “no pets” policy must make an exception to the policy when a customer has a service animal. In addition to MCAD people with diabetes, ALS, epilepsy and numerous other serious conditions also have service dogs.

When a person has MCAD, their mast cells — which serve as a defense system in the body — overreact, which causes an allergic reaction. Stella is trained to detect Kara-Anne’s histamine level. Histamine is an organic compound related to the body’s inflammatory response. Elevated histamine indicates an allergic reaction. Kara-Anne’s reactions can range from hives to full anaphylactic shock. Triggers that can cause her histamine level to rise include cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers, cologne, soap, body spray, and mold.

Stella is trained in scent. If she smells a trigger, she alerts by blocking Kara-Anne, and then pulling her out of the environment. When Stella alerts, Kara-Anne has rescue medications to take to prevent the anaphylaxis from coming on.

Sandy Canfield said while Stella has greatly helped improve the quality of Kara-Anne’s life, she is now faced with the problem of running into other dogs everywhere she goes. There seems to be dogs in stores more often than ever these days — and store owners are allowing it, she said.

“It’s hard for me to navigate around the store when there are other dogs in the store, since it’s hard for Stella to work when she’s distracted,” Kara-Anne said.

According to Kara-Anne, when Stella is distracted, she will “stop sniffing around, and will start looking around and will get nervous.”

“Thank God Stella is a rock star dog,” Sandy Canfield said. “But God forbid she misses an alert and it happens to be one that could have saved Kara-Anne’s life.”

Kara-Anne was diagnosed with MCAD when she was 11. Her reactions to triggers for the disease vary widely.

“It was never cookie cutter,” said Sandy, who, along with her husband Scott, have two other children. “She could be having a conversation and then go unconscious, or sometimes she will sound like she has marbles in her mouth. Other times, she gets hives, or her throat will just close up.”

To help control the disease, she receives a monthly injection. When she does have a reaction, sometimes she requires an EpiPen or Benedryl.

Kara-Anne gets reactions as often as three times a week. As a result, they have completely prevented her from leading a normal life, according to her mother.

“Her childhood was robbed from her,” Sandy Canfield said.

She had to leave St. Ann’s middle school in Milford due to her condition, and received private tutoring at home. She returned to school in the eleventh grade, attending Foran High School. The Board of Education supplied her with a one-on-one nurse at the time.

After graduation, she attended Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, studying occupational therapy.

“I went to school with her for two-and-a-half years,” Sandy Canfield said. “I drove her every day and I sat outside every class she took.”

In 2015, Kara-Anne started improving.

“The reactions got less and less,” Sandy said. “We had a good medication plan going.”

Kara-Anne got a part-time job, a driver’s license, and started driving the 30 minute commute to school by herself. She became an occupational therapist for the Stamford School System. After three years, her symptoms returned and she started getting serious reactions again — and going into shock.

“It happened four times within a two-week period,” her mother said. “One time, she was driving when it happened. She has not driven since.”

Kara-Anne had to resign from her job and is now on disability. She has used a walker since August of 2019 and the dog has not left her side since. Since the pandemic, she has gone into shock a total of 25 times, Sandy said

“If I can get one person to leave their dog at home when they go to a store, I’ve accomplished my goal,” she said.

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    January 8, 2021

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    January 8, 2021

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    January 8, 2021

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    January 7, 2021

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    January 7, 2021

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    January 7, 2021

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more

    Police Dog Attack

    January 7, 2021

    A resolution headed to the Duluth City Council on Monday could put to rest a lawsuit filed by Teri Lynn Ehlers, an employee of the Patch Motel, who was bitten by a Duluth police dog named Oakley. Former Duluth Police Officer Marc Johnson was a registered guest of the Warroad establishment May 28, 2018, when […]

    Read more

    PAWS With A Cause

    January 7, 2021

    Pebble Hill Plantation and the Thomas County Public Library are pleased to announce the upcoming Enlightening Bites program, “PAWS With a Cause,” on Friday, January 8, 2021 at noon in the Flipper Room of the Library. The program is being presented by Jeri Anderson, field representative. Anderson is recently retired from the City of Monticello, […]

    Read more

    Police Canine Team

    January 7, 2021

    Kingston Police revealed in a news release late Wednesday afternoon that they’ve been keeping a four-legged secret for roughly three months. The force announced it added a second canine unit, with the arrival of police service dog Dak this past October. He is working with Const. Jeff Dickson, while police service dog Bask is working […]

    Read more

    K9s For Warriors

    January 7, 2021

    K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides military veterans suffering from severe PTSD, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma with service animals, recently changed the name of its main campus to honor its leader and founder Shari Duval. Duval began K9s For Warriors in 2011 after her son returned from two tours in […]

    Read more

    More Recent News