One beautiful spring morning last May, Debbie Zeisler was getting a little frustrated with her dog, Bear. She wanted to go outside to get the mail, but Bear wasn’t having it – he wanted her to stay inside where he could keep an eye on her.
Zeisler finally got Bear to move out of her way and out the door she went, but before she could even make it down her front steps, she suffered a seizure and fell, hitting her head. She was out cold.
A horseback riding accident 18 years ago left Zeisler with seizures.
“When I have these seizures, I cannot think, I do not rationalize or understand going on,” Zeisler said. “If I do not get my medicine I will pass out and that’s what happened. 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.”
Bear immediately went into action and started running from door to door, scratching at each one in their Milsap, Texas, neighborhood, trying to get Zeisler the medical attention she needed. While he was running the streets, an animal control officer spotted the Shiloh German Shepherd and began to follow him. Bear led the officer to Zeisler, who was lying in the hot sun, confounded and unsettled.
The animal control officer called 911, and Bear rode with Zeisler in the ambulance to the hospital. Luckily for Zeisler, Bear was there, because without him, neither one would be around today to tell their amazing story.
And that is how a former shelter dog, with no formal training as a service dog, came to be the spcaLA’s 30th Annual National Hero Dog Award winner. He received the award at a ceremony in Los Angeles this morning.
Bear nearly missed his chance at finding a furever home. He had been stuck in the back of an animal shelter in Weatherford, Texas, outside by himself. He was not in the front with the rest of the animals up for adoption. While visiting the shelter, looking for a dog for her mom, Zeisler asked if they had any Shepherds up for adoption. Reluctantly, they told her they had one in the back, and she was free to take a look.
“The reason why Bear was in the back, I found out later, was because nobody wanted him. He was too big, people felt like there was no place to keep him and he would be too much to feed,” said Zeisler.
It was love at first sight, but Bear was not supposed to be Zeisler’s dog. However, Bear picked Zeisler, and it’s a good thing, too.
“He wouldn’t let me out of his sight. Within three days, he started showing me signs that he knew something was wrong, and at first I didn’t get it. I keep my medicine in a certain place and he started following me each time I went to take my meds,” said Zeisler. “Bear will nudge my head to get me up and take them. I have partial-complex seizures. If I am staggering – it is like I am in a drunken stupor – he will take me to my meds.”
Madeline Bernstein, president of spcaLA, said, “This is one of the most perfect illustrations of how strong the human-animal bond is, and of how dogs can cross the specie lines to protect a human, not another dog.”
Bear is living proof of that incredible bond, and continues to give back to Zeisler each and every day.
“Please adopt. My niece just bought a $600 Yorkie from a breeder. She had to put it down because it was very sick. They paid over $800 in medical care. The only money I spent on Bear was the adoption fee,” Zeisler said. “There’s a dog out there for everybody. There’s a hero in every shelter, and I know that for a fact.”
PHOTO: Kara Ogushi