How one special dog makes a difference

July 27, 2011 by Tails Magazine in August 2011 with 0 Comments

More than a service dog, Lugnut is a lifesaverIndianapolis-August-Hero-Photo_Web

Lugnut, a 115-pound Golden Retriever, was originally Kristi Rush’s “granddog.” He is smart, eager, loves to learn, and has his credentials as a trained therapy dog. So when her son got a new job as a trucker, inviting Lugnut to move in with her was a no-brainer.

“We always had a very special bond,” says Rush, who has been a dog trainer at Best Friends Pet Care and Resort since 2008. “I took him to work with me every day and really started to find out what he was good at.”

Soon after Lugnut moved in, Rush fell ill and was hospitalized. Because of his therapy dog status, Lugnut was allowed to visit her hospital room. Rush was ultimately diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic and soon noticed Lugnut keeping an extra close watch.

“He had a keen eye on me and what was going on,” she recalls. “When we came home it continued. He was always right by my side, but then I realized he paid even more attention to me when my sugar levels crashed or spiked.”

With any other dog, she may have been shocked. However, Lugnut was special.

“From the beginning, Lugnut was a dog who loved to learn,” she says. “He taught himself how to help me, to know when I needed him. I started to work with him on how to alert me so that we were on the same page.”

Rush says she is never surprised with how much an animal can pick up. She is constantly trying to push the dogs she trains to find out what they can learn.

“I love training dogs,” she says. “Dogs love you regardless of who or what you are. They are very adaptable. I want each of them to become all that they can be.”

Lugnut has saved Rush’s life on countless occasions. They travel everywhere together. Even when Rush heads to the local YMCA to swim, Lugnut is by her side and has alerted her from the pool deck that she needs to get out.

“Just last week I was getting ready to swim. I checked my blood sugar, and it was 125—which is a great level for working out,” she says. “I was maybe in the pool for 30 minutes when Lugnut sat up and started whining at me. I felt fine and kept swimming, but he was persistent. So I swam to the edge, and I just barely got myself out of the pool when my vision started filling up with black spots. I grabbed his leash and told him to take me to my locker.”

Lugnut remembered her locker out of the hundreds of metal doors, and, thankfully, led her there quickly. Her blood sugar had dropped to 37, and she was dangerously close to losing her swallowing response and totally passing out.

“It is really hard to explain what he means to me,” she says. “I owe him my life; he has saved me countless times. If I didn’t have him at my side I would be completely lost.”

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