Charlie, The Lhasa Apso Pup Hero

Edited by Marsha Susag

Text Box: Charlie and one of his toys Text Box: Kathy and Charlie on their first day together                                        

February 13, 2016

Kathy Bennett shared this narrative on Facebook about how Charlie, her 6 month Lhasa Apso puppy saved her life.  She shared more detail with me via email. 

I want to share an extraordinary story about my puppy, Charlie, who will be 6 months old next week.  For those of you who don’t know, I’m type 1 diabetic and wear an insulin pump. It malfunctioned Thursday night, so I replaced it and went to bed. Every time I fell asleep Charlie would jump on me and wake me up. This went on for a couple of hours as best as I can remember. Charlie was very agitated and I was getting irritated because I had a big day Friday, was exhausted, and really needed to get some sleep! Plus he was acting totally out of character.

Finally I realized that I wasn’t feeling well and got up to test my blood glucose. As I walked to the bathroom I felt faint and knew something was very wrong. I started eating glucose tablets and when I tested my blood it was 33 – normal is 100 to 120 for me - I was literally minutes away from being in a coma and was lucky that it hadn’t already happened. I made my way downstairs and started chugging Orangina (which I never have on hand but did for some reason) to get my blood sugar up rapidly, and then finally went back to bed. Charlie settled down and we all went to sleep.

I’ve heard of dogs who can sense low blood sugar, cancer, etc., but have never had the experience. I would very likely be dead if it weren’t for Charlie – and I’m not exaggerating because once I would be in a coma that would be it because I live alone and no one would have found me in time. I’m seeing my dr Tuesday to find out what the #@*% happened with the pump and will be wearing a continuous blood glucose monitor to alert me if my blood sugar tanks. But I’m so blown away by Charlie’s extraordinary ability to sense this and keep me from falling asleep, thus sinking into a coma, I just can’t believe it. It didn’t even occur to me what had happened until Friday morning at work when I put the pieces together.  And I wanted to share this story about my amazing Charlie with all of you. How blessed am I?

How Kathy and Charlie found each other:

A little back story on how I found Charlie – my Lhasa, Lily developed congestive heart failure last June (rather, it was diagnosed because she developed it earlier I’m sure) and I almost lost her before I knew what was happening. With medication I was lucky enough to get another three months with her, and she passed on October 6 just shy of 14 years.  Lily was my heart and my buddy, and I was dreading living without her.  So even though I felt like a traitor to her I knew I wanted another Lhasa (I have a 14 year old Coton de Tulear, Coco, who I used to show and breed, and I’ve had a Tibetan Terrier who was my heart as well – I guess I’m drawn to that part of the world!).  So one Friday night in July, I started sending out emails to Lhasa breeders to see what my chances were of getting a puppy within the next six months or so.

I was able to get on LaVonne’s (Bennett, Madison, WI) list – there were four of us. Only three puppies were born, as you know, and I wanted a girl. But the family before me wanted the girl and LaVonne wanted Misti, so I got Charlie.  My Tibetan was a boy and I thought oh well, it’s meant to be that I have a boy.

A neighbor of mine went with me to meet Charlie (who started as Romeo) and of course, he was adorable. But to be honest I really didn’t play with him very much – I more just observed, probably because Lily had just died.  When I picked him up just before Thanksgiving he was in a Sherpa bag in the back seat with a friend, and I again had barely any contact with him.  I was so worried that he’d hate me for taking me away from his sisters and family!  When we got home and I took him out of the Sherpa, it was as though lightening struck – he and I bonded immediately, as though we’d always been together.  It was the weirdest thing and a feeling I’ve never experienced before.  Charlie knew he was mine and I was his.  My neighbors were all so amazed because it was apparent he knew I was his mom when we went out to walk, again so unlike most puppies.  He’s always been mature, has never chewed anything other than his chewies and toys, hasn’t destroyed ANYTHING in the house, immediately knew what a pee pad was and used it without my training him, taught himself to play ball and sit, etc etc.  Seriously, my friends have been absolutely dumbfounded by Charlie!  One of my neighbors keeps him a couple of days a week with her dog and just can’t believe how easy he is, how smart he is and how incredibly sweet he is!  He is a kisser from the word go!  I honestly could go on and on about how wonderful he is, but the important point is how we instantly bonded when we were finally together alone.  It really was extraordinary.

As you know, he just turned six months old last week but Charlie has never acted like a typical puppy.  The night of the incident was a normal evening.  We went up to bed around 9:00 and my pump started beeping, indicating that it stopped working and wasn’t delivering any insulin.  I had just changed it that morning so I was PO’d that I was going to lose 150 units of insulin!  I changed the pump and then went to bed.  I actually think I fell asleep for a little while because what I remember is that I woke up around 11 or midnight-ish, and every time I started to doze off Charlie would jump on my legs really hard, then come up to my face, and then go to the other side of the bed.  This went on for a couple of hours I think – I really don’t recall.  I remember wondering why Charlie was so agitated and how unusual he was acting; plus I was getting aggravated because I needed to get some sleep! I told Charlie to please let me go to sleep – I had a big day at work and really needed to rest!  But he wasn’t having it.  Then I started perspiring intensely and knew something was up. I got out of bed, Charlie followed me, and when I stood up I knew I was in trouble.  I went into the bathroom to check my sugar and started chewing on some glucose tabs before I got the results.  My blood sugar was 33 – 33!!!  I was so scared – the lowest it had ever been was 42 and that scared me to death. Thirty-three???!!!  I was amazed I wasn’t in a coma!  I made my way downstairs – all I could think of was getting sugar in my system – and drank some Orangina (which is absolutely NEVER buy but I did the previous week) and ate some biscotti, ate some more tablets, and finally got it to 80.  Then I went back upstairs to bed and this time, Charlie let me go to sleep.

It wasn’t until I was at work the next morning that it hit me – Charlie intentionally kept me from going to sleep/passing out by jumping on me deliberately until I got up!  If he hadn’t sense that I was in trouble, I would probably be dead because I live alone and no one would have checked on me until later that day when I didn’t show up to work.  I had both low and high blood sugars for the next few days, and had an appointment with my endocrinologist to learn how to use my new Dexcom CGM.  My blood sugar dropped to 57 in her office, plus she couldn’t understand why it had dropped to 33, etc. etc.  I figured it was the pump, but maybe it’s as you described below.  That evening I was eating and Charlie again started jumping on me, getting up in my face, was very agitated, etc.  I checked my blood sugar and it was low – I don’t remember the number – but it kept dropping. 

The last time was Saturday – I was cleaning the house and didn’t hear my cgm going off.  Charlie kept jumping on my legs as I vacuumed, was very agitated, etc. and I thought it was because of the vacuum.  But he kept doing it even after I stopped the vacuum, so I started to check my blood sugar and the cgm monitor started beeping!  As soon as I started taking care of it Charlie relaxed.  I’ve also noticed that he’ll occasionally come up to me and focus on my mouth – not licking but staring and kind of sniffing.  Then he’ll go away if he’s satisfied that all is ok.  There must be some sort of odor that’s emitted when my sugar starts dropping.

Isn’t this just the most amazing thing?!  So I think it makes sense to register Charlie as a service dog so he can go everywhere with me.  These devices fail, as we know, but Charlie won’t.  So he’s much more reliable than a piece of technology.

So all in all, Charlie is the air I breathe and makes my life so much more fulfilling.  And it’s not just me saying how unusual he is – everyone who meets him feels the same way!