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A Life For A Life

Bear during the awards ceremony.

When Debbie Zeisler went to visit the Weatherford Animal Shelter in Weatherford, Texas, she was looking to adopt a German Shepherd for her mother. When she inquired about shepherds, she was told that they only had one and that he was in the back because no one wanted to adopt him. When they brought the Shiloh German Shepherd out, it was love at first sight. "I rescued him. He rescued me. So that's kind of a life for a life and it's a bond that cannot be broken," Zeisler said.

According to Zeisler, within three days, Bear began showing signs that he knew something was wrong. One hot day in May, Bear tried to keep Zeisler in the house but she ignored his warnings. "I pushed past him, because I was waiting for something in the mail. And he tried to tell me. All I remember is falling down those stairs and the next thing I knew, the sheriff's department was there," Zeisler said.

Zeisler suffers from complex partial seizures, and her body was telling Bear that she was about to have one. "When your body is about to undergo a big physical change, it begins to smell a little different," explains Madeline Bernstein of the SPCALA. "That humans perhaps can't smell, but some animals can."

As Zeisler fell unconscious, Bear leaped into action. "He circled the entire area that I live (at). Looking for somebody," she said. The German shepherd found an animal control officer and made a beeline for her truck. Bear jumped in and was "jiggling his head, so she could see he had tags. That's when she knew that he was a seizure dog." Bear returned with the animal control officer, and found that Zeisler was being loaded into an ambulance. He did not hesitate to jump right in the back with her and accompanied her to the hospital.

Bear has never been trained to know when his owner was going to have a seizure, but figured it out on his own. Zeisler says that she began having seizures following a horseback riding accident 18 years ago. When Bear senses that she is about the have a seizure, he will lean on Zeisler's legs so that she can sit down before they happen. Zeisler says that she has fallen down a few times when she did not heed Bear's warnings. She says that the dog will get her medicine or stay with her, whichever is needed at the time.

The wonderful German shepherd had been selected for the National Hero Dog Award by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. In addition to the award, Bear received a free year's supply of dog food, a basket of treats and a two-day stay in Los Angeles.