Community gifts girl a puppy that detects diabetic reactions

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wwltv.com

Posted on January 3, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 6 at 8:11 AM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- When 12-year-old Autumn Russ puts the special vest on Bella, the British Labrador puppy goes to work.

Bella is not a family pet. No one else plays with her. She is trained to detect when Autumn has a potentially fatal diabetic reaction.

"To alert me whenever I go, whenever my blood sugar rises or drops," Autumn said, describing what Bella does.

"She gave us a sense of safety," said her mother Cindy.

Autumn cannot tell when her blood sugar levels fluctuate wildly, spiking or dropping to dangerous levels that could lead to a coma, even death.

At the time of the first Action Report in August, mother and daughter were testing her blood sugar levels around the clock.

"I'm afraid if I go to sleep, I could die in my sleep, like go in a coma, and not wake up," Autumn said at the time, the stress making her cry.

They couldn't afford the specially trained alert dog, until Eyewitness News viewers saw that first Action Report.

"I was just amazed by people's generosity," said Cindy. "You know, we started getting calls within five minutes of it airing."

Bella came home just after Christmas and quickly showed them how well she had been trained to detect signs Autumn's blood sugar is fluctuating.

"She alerts Autumn probably about five times a day maybe, and she's doing it now," said Cindy.

Sure enough, Bella suddenly pawed Autumn repeatedly to get her attention, not stopping until she saw Autumn test her blood sugar, which had risen to 248.

Bella is only eight months old, which means she'll have a good 15 years, the rest of her life, to spend protecting Autumn, literally saving Autumn's life.

"She is giving Autumn her life back," Cindy said, crying happy tears. "She's not afraid to go to sleep."

Autumn had a simple way of summing it up: "The best Christmas."

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