McAvoy Receives Service Dog to Treat Cystic Fibrosis Symptoms


Eva Clarke, Lifestyle Editor

Volunteers and employees at Golden Opportunities for Independence (GOFI), a nonprofit service dog organization based in Walpole, helped bring a litter of eight puppies into the world on Nov. 26; some destined to be service dogs for kids, teens or adults with daily limitations to their independence, both physically and psychologically.

Junior Sarah McAvoy, who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) at birth, recently joined the GOFI service dog program after she was surprised with Rosey, one of the GOFI puppies, this past Christmas Eve with the help of Walpole High’s Nurse Rachel Jackson, who is also GOFI’s placement coordinator.

“I was surprised and cried; I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was definitely the happiest day of my life,” McAvoy said. “I chose the name Rosey because Cystic Fibrosis is sometimes called 65 roses.”

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects the lungs and respiratory system over time due to a mutation in the cells that produce mucus, causing them to clog up ducts and passageways, most prominently those in the respiratory system, which are vital for breathing. With the disease comes many trips to the hospital, daily therapies and plenty of medications; therefore, it is vital that McAvoy stays healthy, for getting sick could be life-threatening for her.

“Cystic Fibrosis has affected my academic performance because I’m hospitalized a lot, so I miss school often and have a lot of makeup work,” McAvoy said. “I don’t let Cystic Fibrosis get in the way of things I love doing, though. I push through it everyday and live life to the fullest.”

McAvoy and Rosey started training early: at just a few weeks old, the GOFI puppies were held near a high-frequency chest wall oscillation— a loud, vibrating CF treatment—to see how the puppies reacted to sound. Out of all the puppies, Rosey was the puppy who stayed the most calm and least disturbed by the equipment. A few weeks later, McAvoy did a full CF treatment at GOFI, and Rosey seemed unbothered by all the vibrations and loud machines.

“She is great for emotional support and comforts me when I do my treatments,” McAvoy said. Since bringing Rosey home in late January, Rosey has accompanied McAvoy for many more treatments, as CF requires them every day.

In the future, Rosey will be able to complete more tasks for McAvoy. Rosey currently attends daily training at GOFI and will undergo training for the next one to two years, where she will learn to retrieve medicine, alert others to any kind of medical emergency and perform comforting techniques for visits to the hospital or for daily treatments at home.

“Rosey will be a huge emotional support to Sarah, but she will also be trained to do other tasks such as detecting when Sarah’s respiratory status declines and either alerting Sarah or Sarah’s parents to this,” Jackson said. “She will also be trained to retrieve any medications that Sarah may need. Service dogs for people with CF is a relatively new concept and the possibilities do seem to be endless.”

Though Rosey will play an important role in ensuring McAvoy’s safety, she is most looking forward to having Rosey’s support on a daily basis.

“I’m most excited for companionship. I already am so excited and am so happy to go through this experience. I love Rosey and I really hope I can help other people with the disease by showing how Rosey can help me,” McAvoy said.