Australian Shepherd 'Drive': Dog Sport Competitor and Seizure Alert Dog (2024)

Lacey Curry of Elkart, Indiana, has an impressive amount of American Kennel Club titles on her dog, “Drive.” But what makes this 3-year-old Australian Shepherd most special isn’t what he does in competitions. Drive is a seizure alert dog for Curry’s other Australian Shepherd, the “Torch,” who has idiopathic epilepsy.

Drive was never intended to be a seizure alert dog, but as a puppy, he began alerting Curry of Torch’s seizures. All while competing with him in dog sports, Curry began to learn Drive’s alert cues. Not only did he help her rediscover her love for dog sports, he’s also helping manage Torch’s epilepsy.

Australian Shepherd 'Drive': Dog Sport Competitor and Seizure Alert Dog (1)

Kim Stanton

Stepping Back From Dog Sports

In July 2018, when he was two years old, Torch was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy. Curry had been competing with him in dogs sports all the time, and knew that this diagnosis would change how and if he’d be able to compete. She spent much of the next year trying to figure out how he could return to dog sports, but given the severity of his condition, they couldn’t continue.

It was hard for Curry to come to terms with everything this diagnosis meant for their lives. “I love to compete, she says. “I love the people, the atmosphere and the camaraderie. When I finally realized that it wasn’t going to happen, I started to think about getting another male competition dog.”

‘Don’t Count Spud Out!’

It was also through her involvement in the dog world that brought her to Drive. Competitions had connected her with Maria Neff, a handler for Dr. Jill Thompson, a Wilmington, Ohio, Aussie breeder at Kingman Australian Shepherd. Occasionally, Neff would ask Curry to help show an entry when she had a conflict with too many dogs.

One of those dogs was “Tate,” a female Aussie with a terrific temperament. “She loves life and everyone in it. I wanted that in my next dog. I told Jill that if she ever wanted to place Tate, I would love to have her,” says Curry. “She laughed, because she knew how special Tate was.”

In 2020, Curry was scrolling Facebook and noticed Thompson had posted that Tate was expecting puppies. It took Curry about 15 minutes to reach out — and the rest is history.

Tate gave birth to five puppies, and Thompson named the litter after potatoes. Early on, Curry fell in love with a puppy named “Russet,” but Thompson had another dog in mind for her. “Don’t count ‘Spud’ out,” Thompson had said to Curry regarding the little black dog a few times before she came to visit. When the puppies were 10 weeks old, Curry traveled to Thompson’s kennel, about four hours away, to make her pick. “I checked out Russet first and didn’t feel the connection,” Curry says. “I looked at Spud, and he looked at me, and I said, ‘I want Spud.'”

From ‘Spud’ the Puppy to ‘Drive’ the Sports Dog

Australian Shepherd 'Drive': Dog Sport Competitor and Seizure Alert Dog (2)

Lacey Curry

Spud’s new name didn’t come to Curry overnight. Curry’s dad, who was usually the one to help her name her dogs, died in 2019. She knew she wanted her new puppy’s name to honor him in some way, but couldn’t quite figure out the name. “Some of my best memories with him was going to Kenny Chesney concerts,” she says.

Still, she took some time to give the name thought. Devastated by Torch’s epilepsy diagnosis, Curry was trying to find the joy in competing in dog sports again. After a training class, she was driving home when a Chesney song, “The Road and the Radio,” came on the radio. The song spoke to memories, and “searching for a feeling I ain’t felt in a while,” which resonated deeply with Curry.

The song continues, “Happiness is a destination that’s hard to find. It may take some time. But in my mind, there’s something more. And I’ll open up a new door.” At that moment, with tears streaming down her face, she knew the puppy’s registered name would be Kingman’s The Road and The Radio, and his call name would be “Drive.”

Curry wasted no time enrolling Drive (CH Kingman’s The Road And The Radio RA NA ACT1J CGC TKI) in dog training and eventually segued to AKC Rally, Obedience, Agility, Lure Coursing, and Dock Diving. His favorites are Agility and Dock Diving — he loves water. The family has a pool, which he is constantly trying to jump into. “If the kids are in it, he screams because he wants in, too,” Curry laughs.

A Surprise Seizure-Alert Dog

By the time puppy Drive arrived at the Curry home, Torch was 4 years old, and had been dealing with epilepsy for two years. “We spent a long time trying to get his seizures under control,” Curry says. “He will experience five, six, seven, sometimes 12 seizures in a row. [He] had to be hospitalized twice when the seizures would not stop, and was put on IV medication.”

Drive was about 8 months old when he first reacted to Torch having a seizure. “I remember it vividly,” Curry recalls. She had been sitting at her kitchen table, with Torch at her feet, focusing on schoolwork. Drive was asleep nearby. “All of a sudden, Drive jumped up, sat next to my chair and began barking,” she says. “Just a single bark, every few seconds.”

Australian Shepherd 'Drive': Dog Sport Competitor and Seizure Alert Dog (3)

Lacey Curry

Curry ordered Drive to stop. Instead, he took his two front paws and began banging on her leg four or five times. “Suddenly, he jumped into my lap and began pushing his muzzle into my cheek,” Curry says. “I was completely caught off-guard, and emphatically told him to get off. Within seconds, I started to feel shaking at my feet.”

Sure enough, Torch had begun seizing. The whole time, Drive stood guard watching to make sure he was okay, and then cleaned his face once the episode was done. From that moment, Curry recognized that if Drive starts whining, spinning or being adamant something is happening, she needed to listen and react.

Titles Across Dog Sports

Because Curry is a middle-school counselor, she limits competitions with Drive to the summer chiefly in the Midwest. But he hasn’t let location stop him by any means. Since starting in dog sports, he’s earned many titles across sports, including in Conformation, AKC Rally, Trick Dog, and Dock Diving. His favorites are Dock Diving, because of the water, and Agility, which is fast-paced.

Australian Shepherd 'Drive': Dog Sport Competitor and Seizure Alert Dog (4)

Kim Stanton

Drive also has his Canine Good Citizen (CGC), which Curry often jokes about since he is so mischievous. “The running joke,” she laughs, “is that the Canine Good Citizen title is going to be revoked.” He’s a fun-loving dog at home and in every competition venue, with a mind of his own.

Curry says that Drive is notorious for just stopping in the Rally ring mid-competition. About halfway through, he sometimes decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore, and lies down, refusing to get up. Curry says it doesn’t matter how much she tries to get him back up — he just flattens on the ground. But when he wants to, he’s bringing home titles like his AKC Rally Advanced.

Drive and Torch, the Dynamic Duo

While talented and observant, Curry notes that Drive is still a sensitive dog. “He does not like to be wrong,” Curry says. “We often laugh that if Drive becomes upset, he takes his toys and goes home.” Even so, he loves all people and dogs, including his other housemate, “Zoom,” another Australian Shepherd. “Drive’s never met a stranger,” Curry says.

Part of his outgoing nature is what makes him such a good companion and seizure-alert dog to Torch. The two dogs are inseparable, and deeply understand one another, which helps Drive be in tune to Torch at all times.

Australian Shepherd 'Drive': Dog Sport Competitor and Seizure Alert Dog (5)

Lacey Curry

“We have learned to listen to Drive,” Curry says. “If he is calm, all is good. If he is concerned, we should be, too.” Torch’s seizures tend to happen in the middle of the night, prompting Drive to jump on the bed and nudge Curry until she awakens. If the dogs are crated, Drive will spin, bark and cry until someone comes to help. “Drive gives me a sense of peace that I didn’t have before,” Curry says. “I always worried about when the next seizure would happen. Now I just trust Drive to tell me.”

Torch travels to all shows in which Drive is competing, serving as his “Best Friend, Support System, and No. 1 Cheerleader.” And in turn, Drive is always looking out for him.

Australian Shepherd 'Drive': Dog Sport Competitor and Seizure Alert Dog (2024)
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