Salisbury family raising money to get allergy alert dog for daughter

Karl and Mandi Boehm customarily bought Girl Scout cookies from a friend every year, but unbeknownst to the family, a small cookie could’ve taken the life of their daughter, Emmalee.

Emmalee was 13 months old when the Boehms discovered she had a severe peanut allergy.


Mandi, who was at home with Emmalee, and the couple’s son, Joseph, noticed her daughter wasn’t quite herself.

The young child began rubbing her eyes and face so much that Mandi believed she was sleepy. She decided to go ahead and give Emmalee a bath. When Emmalee began crying Mandi realized something was different about her cry.

Joseph, 8, immediately noticed the hives that crept upon on Emmalee’s face.

Karl, who is a Salisbury Police officer, was working the night shift and wasn’t at home. Mandi called the child’s pediatrician, and the doctor immediately asked what Emmalee had eaten.

The cookie, which Mandi had broken into fourths, contained peanut butter and had caused Emmalee to have an allergic reaction.

Doctors told the Boehms that there was a high chance of Emmalee developing the allergy as a result of their family history of eczema and asthma.

Since that first allergic reaction, Emmalee has had a few more incidents that have sent her to the hospital and had her parents concerned.

The couple have put safeguards in place that include removing peanuts from their home and monitoring what Emmalee eats. They even call ahead to restaurants.

The Boehms recently decided they needed some help keeping peanuts away from Emmalee. They are hoping to purchase a service dog that would detect peanuts or any substances that contain peanuts before Emmalee comes into contact with it.

They hope to raise $20,000 to be used for the Angel Service Dogs, a Colorado nonprofit that provides allergy alert dogs with families who are inhibited by life-threatening allergies.

The cost covers training for Emmalee and the rest of the family, the dog, as well as having the dog spayed or neutered.

In May the two-year-old had another serious reaction following a family dinner at a local restaurant. The restaurant was one the family considered safe, one that did not cook using peanut oil. Emmalee had an allergy attack after touching peanut residue left on the table from a previous customer.

She did not immediately show signs of a reaction, but an hour later while in the car, Joseph again noticed she “didn’t look right,” he said.

She began to break out in hives, her face began to swell and shortly after, Emmalee had a 106 degree temperature, Karl said.

Karl and Mandi gave their daughter Benadryl twice, but to no avail. The symptoms did not dissipate.

“The thing that scared us is you can think you gave her Benadryl, it will come back,” Mandi said.

That one family outing turned into a five-day fever, multiple hospital visits and several shots, including steroids, to control the reaction.

It never crossed the family’s minds that there would be peanut residue at the restaurant, especially since they’d deemed it a safe zone.

The same night, Karl and Mandi took shifts because they were worried Emmalee might have a flare up.

It can take up to two hours for the medicine to take effect, and you’re “not even out of the woods up to 72 hours after exposure,” Karl said.

Karl said even if there’s something that’s not made with peanut, it may have been processed in a place where it could come into contact with peanuts. They always read labels and are cautious about who they let baby sit Emmalee.

Right now the family limits the places Emmalee can go including birthday parties, amusement parks, school and grocery stores, all of which can be a potential danger zone for someone with such a severe peanut allergy. The Boehms say they’ve seriously questioned whether Emmalee can go trick-or-treating this Halloween.

A service dog would be able to smell peanut and any residue from peanut that’s been left behind. Once Emmalee starts school the dog would be able to go into the classroom with her and “sniff” out the perimeter to ensure there are no peanuts in sight.

Emmalee had another allergic reaction while at a local racetrack. The Boehms went to watch Mandi’s father race and were aware of the potential dangers of peanuts.

Mandi said she warned family and friends who were seated nearby and even sat away from people who were eating peanuts. A family friend who did not know of Emmalee’s allergy gave her a piece of a peanut butter cookie. Mandi made Emmalee spit the cookie out and rinsed her mouth out with water, but it was too late. The small cookie she’d eaten precipitated a serious reaction.

The Boehms had an Epipen, but Emmalee still spent two days in the hospital.

Following the latest allergy incident, Karl said they realized they couldn’t protect Emmalee from everything even if they were with her, but an alert dog could.

Family members simply don’t know if Emmalee will grow out of her peanut allergy, but they treat the situation like she’ll always be allergic to peanuts.

Karl and Mandi said they aren’t able to pay for the costs themselves, but hope the community can help them in their fundraising efforts.

The Boehm’s soon realized “it’s going to take strangers to make it happen;” and so they’ve started a fundraising campaign via an online fundraising site called GoFundMe.

For more information about Emmalee and the Boehms fundraising efforts visit her page at www.gofundme.com/pawsforpeanuts

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