Dog dialled 911 with teeth to save diabetic - and win award
Three year-old Belle Weaver flew into Washington yesterday to meet her congressman and receive an award for heroism after saving her best friend's life, writes Denis Staunton in Washington. As she padded onstage last night with five other award-winning heroes, Belle's age was not all that set her apart.
A pint-sized beauty with dark-brown eyes, floppy ears and a wet nose, Belle is a beagle who used her owner's mobile phone to call an ambulance.
Kevin Weaver (34) was lying unconscious on his kitchen floor after a diabetic seizure when Belle found his phone and bit the number 9 on the keypad, which was programmed to dial 911, the US emergency number.
At the other end, all they heard was barking but they sent an ambulance anyway and Mr Weaver was taken to hospital with dangerously low blood sugar. "There is no doubt in my mind that I'd be dead if I didn't have Belle," he said.
Last night, Belle became the first non-human animal to receive the Vita Wireless Samaritan Award, which honours those who use their mobile phones to save lives, stop crime or help in other emergencies. In fact, Belle's act of heroism was the result of nine months of training as a diabetic-alert dog, schooled to sense when her owner's blood sugar is too high or low.
Belle, whose sense of smell is hundreds of times better than a human's, learned to lick Mr Weaver's nostrils to smell his breath, reading his ketone level. If something is wrong, Belle scratches Mr Weaver's leg as a warning and, if he passes out, she was taught to bite down on the number 9 on his mobile phone.
On the day of his seizure, Mr Weaver woke up feeling dizzy and nauseated and Belle knew that something was wrong.
"She started scratching at me and whining. I thought maybe she had to go to the bathroom, not hitting on what was going on. I took her outside and brought her back in, and that's when I had the seizure," Mr Weaver said.
Belle, who was returned to a pet shop twice by unhappy owners before Mr Weaver bought her, is part of a growing canine corps of assistants to physically challenged owners.
Medical service dogs are trained to turn on lights, open drawers, pick up dropped objects, and recognise the sound of doorbells, fire alarms and crying babies.
© The Irish Times