As a veterinarian I’ve had the privilege of tending many exceptional medical alert and seeing-eye dogs over the years. These dogs change lives by enabling their person to thrive. Each is fascinating in his or her specialties such as one of my patients, a Labrador named Raven, who can sniff out a dangerous drop in his seven year-old person’s blood sugar, a gift that saved this boy from countless seizures. And the Golden Retriever, Chip, who senses when his mom is about to have a seizure.
These are super powers. They’re real, not fictional.
Beyond their super power and years of intense training, each dog develops a profound dedication to their person. Years ago, I spent many office visits helping a college student treat her seeing-eye dog’s skin allergies. She was one of the most conscientious pet owners I’ve ever helped, taking meticulous notes on her braille recorder at each visit to provide the best care for her little Labrador mix. Bella was her lifeline. Without Bella she couldn’t attend classes or live her life. One day, a few days after a visit when we felt we were finally winning with Bella’s allergies, she and Bella were at a bus stop waiting for her ride to school. A drunk driver swerved. Bella jumped in front of the car, pushing her mom out of the way to safety. Bella gave her life to save her mom’s. Beyond how much my heart hurts whenever I think about this beautiful dog, no words can express how humbled I am by her. Tears always cloud my eyes when I reflect on Bella’s love for her mom.
Now we are finally seeing these under-the-radar superheroes appear in books. I paid homage to a seizure alert dog, Gump, in my newest contemporary romance, Ask Me To Game. Of course, he’s not only a life-saving working dog, but also he makes an exceptional wingman to our hero, Michael in charming Emma. So Gump might be a bit of a bed hog. And he might like to sit on the toes of the people he likes. He’s an adorable doofus who makes me just want to give him a giant squeeze.
When we read these characters with their soulful brown eyes and mysterious, almost magical, abilities to make their person’s life livable, we can’t help but allow that furry creature to steal the show just a little bit… okay, maybe a lot.