Peanut dog goes national

Aust helps Gonzales adjust his microphone before the shoot at Windjammer Park, as producer Karen Lucht, left, sets up the next interview.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Aust helps Gonzales adjust his microphone before the shoot at Windjammer Park, as producer Karen Lucht, left, sets up the next interview.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

A crew from NBC’s “The Today Show” was in Oak Harbor Thursday to film the emotional story of a 7-year-old boy with a life-threatening allergy and his new dog, Roxie.

Last year, Logan Gonzales was hospitalized 10 times due to a peanut allergy, which his doctors say is the most severe they’ve ever seen.

Exposure to even the slightest hint of peanuts could send his body into anaphylactic shock.

He was unable to be desensitized by gradual exposure to peanuts, so his family found an alternative solution to keep him safe: a peanut-sniffing dog.

“The Today Show” will follow the Gonzales family to Denver, where Logan will meet his Labradoodle, Roxie, for the first time Oct. 12.

The dog was secured after months of community fundraising, with funds totaling about $16,000.

A “Today Show” producer interviewed the family at their Oak Harbor home and filmed Logan as he played basketball with his older sister at Windjammer Park.

Logan’s mother, Judie Gonzales, described the experience as “very emotional.”

“I think both of us have cried enough today,” Judie said of her husband, Derick. “They asked us some tough questions like ‘What has this done for our family?’ People in this town don’t realize the gift they’ve given us.”

The fundraising drive began last May, when local woman Erica Schumacher created a peanut dog fund at Whidbey Island Bank. The total cost of the dog was about $12,000.

The Oak Harbor Lions Club soon donated $3,300 and the Oak Harbor Kiwanis gave $500. U.S. Navy personnel held car washes and local firefighters organized a spaghetti feed.

Dr. Eric Anderson of Best Friend’s Veterinary Center offered free lifetime care for Roxie. A year’s supply of dog food was donated by the Island Pet Center.

“The Today Show” filmed several of the donors Thursday, including the veterinary clinic and the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue.

Most of the donations came in $1 to $10 increments.

“Oak Harbor has a big heart for this sort of thing,” Schumacher said.

Over the last few months, the Gonzales family has appeared on Seattle King-5 TV and several Washington-based radio shows. King-5 will also cover the family’s homecoming at SeaTac Airport Oct. 24.

But not all of the news coverage was positive. Schumacher said the Fox News network did a piece about how people were eating up resources in school districts. The story included the Gonzales family.

Shumacher says that because Crescent Harbor Elementary School hasn’t declared itself a peanut-free zone, a service dog was the best option. “People were saying it was their constitutional right to send their kids to school with peanut butter sandwiches. This is definitely the best way to keep Logan safe,” Schumacher said.

The new dog will join Logan at school towards the end of the October. Roxie, whose trainer also works with drug and bomb-sniffing dogs, can detect very small traces of peanuts and alert her owner to danger. The dog is also hypoallergenic.

While Logan is still a little uncomfortable with the news attention, he’s looking forward to bringing Roxie home.

The Gonzales family will spend two weeks in Denver learning how to work with the dog, but that first meet-and-greet with Roxie will certainly be about bonding.

“I want to play with her first,” Logan said.

Schumacher said she hopes to reach an ultimate goal of $20,000 in fundraising. The money will help cover the family’s two-week-long leave from work. The account “Logan’s Peanut Dog Fund” is still open at Whidbey Island Bank.

“I’m grateful this has been picked up. It’s the kind of story that could help kids in the same situation,” Schumacher said.

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