It’s doubtful an intruder would walk into the Leisher house, come face to face with Havoc, a quietly resolute German shepherd, and decide not to leave in a big hurry. It’s nice having a security dog around and it’s hard to beat the kind of security Havoc offers. However, that’s not why Havoc is at the Leisher’s Wilmette home.
Ashley O’Byrne, the master trainer with Alden’s Kennels, 6810 Barnard Mill Road, Ringwood, who trained Havoc, said the Leishers came to her looking for a seizure alert service dog for their 14-year-old son, Kai, who has epilepsy.
“As soon as he (Havoc) met Kai, he wouldn’t come near me,” O’Byrne said, indicating that Havoc tended to follow her around everywhere before that. “He acted like he didn’t know me.”
The Leishers agreed that they seemed to hit if off well with Havoc right away. Kai’s mother, Judy Leisher, said having Havoc around has made a world of difference in the Leisher home.
“I wasn’t sleeping at night,” Judy Leisher said. “Kai would have grand mal seizures at night. I would get up … every two hours to make sure he was basically alive.”
Havoc is trained to warn the family, which includes Kai, Judy, Kai’s father, Scott, and Kai’s three brothers and sister. Amazingly, Havoc not only warns the family that Kai is having a seizure, he warns the family before Kai has a seizure.
“It seems like Havoc knows when they’re going to come on,” Judy Leisher said. “He’ll just be standing by Kai staring at him.”
While Havoc is trained to warn the family if Kai is having, or will have a seizure, Havoc is actually trained well beyond that. O’Byrne said Havoc is trained as a security dog, narcotics dog, for search and rescue, to find cadavers and in all phases of American Kennel Club utility. Scott Leisher said Havoc is trained to follow more than 200 commands.
“He can do anything,” O’Byrne said of Havoc. “He’s a very dual purpose dog.”
Not only does Havoc serve the Leisher family as a service dog, he is also very protective of the family. This turned into a small problem one day that the family laughs about now.
Judy and Scott had a contractor working in the house to expand the walk-in closet in the master bedroom.
“There was an electrician in there doing some finishing work,” Scott Leisher said. “Unbeknownst to us, our 10-year old had gone from his room to our room. Mac was sleeping in our bed.”
Downstairs, the family was calling Havoc and becoming concerned because Havoc always came right away.
“My wife went upstairs to look and went into our bedroom,” Scott Leisher said. “Havoc was on the bed between the electrician and our son. The electrician wanted to come out but Havoc was sitting there staring at him.”
It wasn’t that Havoc was staring at him, it was the warning look in Havoc’s eyes as he stared.
“The electrician was going to call his boss to call us so he could get out of the closet,” Scott Leisher said.
Kai said he was a little nervous about Havoc when they first met.
“At first, I thought he was kind of scary,” Kai said. “Then, I started playing with him (playing fetch) and I really liked him.”
Judy Leisher said Havoc wasn’t the first dog they went to see at Alden’s Kennels. They said they found out about the kennel by looking online at http://www.petfinders.com. O’Byrne had another dog named Haley but thought that dog was too rambunctious for the Leisher family.
The Leishers made several trips up to Alden’s Kennels to meet Haley and then to meet Havoc.
“When she (O’Byrne) brought Havoc out he took to us right away,” Judy Leisher said. “He ran to us and started circling the kids.”
Since bringing Havoc home, the Leishers have no regrets.
Kai said it’s rather cool having a dog around that looks like a wolf. However, instead of intimidating Kai’s friends, Havoc has become one of the pack. Kai and his friends like to do tricks with Havoc. For instance, all the boys will line up on the couch with their feet out on the ottoman. Then, they’ll have Havoc jump over them. The athletically inclined shepherd takes the leap in stride.
The family has also taught Havoc to talk. When they tell Havoc, “I love you,” Havoc howls back the same words.
The Leishers have another dog – Bailey, a standard poodle. The two dogs also get along famously. Scott Leisher said it seems like Havoc lets Bailey take the dominant role sometimes. He also said Bailey seems a lot braver when she’s standing behind Havoc.
Judy Leisher said there are three million people in the country who are diagnosed with epilepsy. She said another 200,000 are diagnosed each year, which suggests a recent improvement in diagnosing the disease.
Judy Leisher is not only thankful for Havoc, she also has a bit of gratitude for Haley, the dog they didn’t bring home. Before they met Havoc, they went up to Alden’s Kennels to see Haley again. However, Haley was adopted by another family the day before.
“It was almost like Haley brought us there to find Havoc,” Judy Leisher said.