A Pocketful of Love

A Pocketful of Love

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

A Pocketful of Love

If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them.

Phil Pastoret

DebbieLynn never set out to be a fashion model, it just kind of happened. Although she had other interests she wanted to pursue, it was hard to walk away from the success she’d achieved modeling. The exciting lifestyle meant Deb traveled constantly, which left little time for other interests. She’d thought about taking the gamble, quitting and trying something new, but told herself she’d model just one more year. For more years than she could count, it had been, “Just one more year.”

Everything changed the day Deb returned from an overseas modeling job and caught a taxi at the airport. Instead of delivering her home, the drunken cabbie stole her career and health in a horrible car accident that Deb barely survived. Suddenly, the “one more year” of modeling wasn’t an option. Deb was left with a kaleidoscope of disabling health problems, some caused by side effects of the drugs meant to keep her alive. She had no choice— this time, Deb had to start over, from scratch.

Although she’d had dogs as a child and had wanted a dog for a long time, her travel schedule kept her from adopting a pet for many years. Finding the perfect canine companion was now the first thing on Deb’s wish list. Not just any dog would do, though. The scleroderma racking her body left her skin so fragile, a tiny bump could tear it and cause bleeding. On top of that, secondary hemophilia kept cuts from coagulating, and Deb could die if the bleeding wasn’t stopped in time. Doctors who feared a large dog could accidentally hurt her warned Deb that two and a half pounds was the top weight limit she could tolerate. With her lung capacity so severely diminished, shedding was also a problem.

Nevertheless, Deb was determined to have her dream dog. It took her eighteen months to find the perfect two-pound Yorkshire terrier, whom she named Cosette. Her puppy had special needs of her own—because of her tiny size, Cosette couldn’t digest commercial dog foods and required a special vegetarian diet. Deb was happy to do whatever it took to keep her new companion healthy and happy.

They’d been together only a few weeks, and Cosette was only five months old when the pocket-size puppy began “acting weird.” Cosette ran up to Deb, gently pawed her leg in an odd way, and squeaked a peculiar sound Deb had never heard before. The dog wouldn’t stop—she repeated the behavior time and again. What was wrong? Deb worried the pup had gone nuts. Didn’t Deb already have enough to deal with—what if the pup she’d fallen in love with had emotional problems? Deb knew she could manage the homemade diet, but could she handle something worse?

It never occurred to Deb that Cosette was trying to tell her something, until the doctor saw themtogether. During a house call, Deb’s doctor witnessed one of Cosette’s strange episodes. Other patients of his had dogs who alerted them to health conditions, so he immediately recognized that the puppy somehow “knew” in advance Deb would suffer a health crisis. Sure enough, seven minutes later one of Deb’s dangerous migraines began.

Deb was amazed! She had heard about this ability and knew dogs couldn’t be trained to have it; they either “know” or they don’t, and it’s the bond between the pet and person that makes it happen. She’d never considered having a service animal, but Cosette had taken matters into her own paws. The pup’s ability offered a freedom Deb never expected, and allowed her to take medicine and prevent the headaches that not only were painful, but also could cause bleeding and kill her.

The doctor told Deb that her puppy should get additional training and certification so Cosette could go with her everywhere. The Delta Society, a national group that certifies therapy dogs, recommended a trainer. It took only four months for the little dog, with her inborn service-dog instincts, to be certified.

Deb had also suffered hearing loss from the accident, making it difficult for her to hear buzzer-type sounds like the doorbell, the telephone, and the washer and dryer, so Cosette learned to alert her to any of these. She also was taught to tell Debwhen something or someone approached from her peripheral blind spots.

But Cosette figured out ways to help Deb that not even the trainer anticipated. Cosette’s acute sense of smell allows her to alert Deb to tiny cuts that Deb doesn’t even know have happened. First, she pushes and pushes against Deb’s ankles to make her get down to the dog’s level. Then Cosette puts her tongue against the cut, finds a position that gives her good traction, then applies pressure. Deb says that the tiny dog can make herself feel like a lead weight. A treatment lasts for twenty to forty minutes—or until the bleeding stops, and somehow, Cosette knows when it has been long enough. Without Cosette’s skillful attentions, Deb would need to spend all day at the emergency room.

Another serious health problem Deb faces are her heart irregularities. She’s often not aware that her breathing has become shallower until she blacks out. Now when Deb’s heart skips a beat, Cosette warns her so she can take medicine in time to ward off the problem. When Deb sleeps, sometimes her heart stops altogether, until Cosette leaps into action—literally, by jumping on Deb’s chest. That almost always gets the heart going again, but if it doesn’t start right away, Cosette even knows to dial 911!

Cosette was trained to dial 911 on any push-button telephone by tapping out the individual three numbers, so she can call for help anywhere, anytime, even from a cell phone when they’re away from home. Deb leaves phones in their home always within paw-reach. Cosette has called 911 and saved Deb’s life more than thirty times during their years together.

The little dog who saves her life also helps Deb make a living. Cosette inspired Deb to create three Web sites that cater to pet lovers. Cosette’s Private Collection is a line of all-natural, botanical grooming products for dogs. Cosette’s Choice includes organic biscuits, nutritional supplements for dogs with special nutritional needs (like Cosette herself), including a Biscuit-of-the-Month Club. The third, Cosette’s Closet, leverages Deb’s experience and taste from the world of fashion modeling to provide a specialty line of canine clothing, including doggy bridesmaid gowns, sundresses and tuxedos. Cosette, of course, has her own closetful of designer doggy togs.

Cosette wears her special outfits when she accompanies Deb to restaurants. On her last birthday, Cosette enjoyed eating rice and beans at her favorite Mexican dining spot and greeting the restaurantmanager, amember of her “fan club,” who insisted on singing “Happy Birthday” to the special dog.

Her biggest fan, though, is DebbieLynn. The former model—now successful entrepreneur—never knew she could become so attached to a dog, yet her tiny companion and service dog has become everything to her. And Deb knows the feeling is mutual; she is amazed at the depth of Cosette’s love for her. Today they live for each other.

Amy D. Shojai

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners