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Former Shelter Dog Teaches Himself To Save His Owner – Wins National Award

In 2012, the winner of the 30th National Hero Dog award by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals LA, went to a 5 year old German Shepherd named Bear.

The former shelter animal received the award for taking excellent care of his owner, Debbie Zeisler. However, What makes Bear’s actions so remarkable is that he is entirely self- taught.

Zeisler suffers from seizures that began after a horse-riding accident 19 years ago. Bear is now on guard to warn her when those seizures are about to happen.

Debbie was actually looking for a dog for her mother when she visited the Weatherford Animal Shelter in Millsap, Texas in 2011.

However when a German Shepherd that nobody wanted was brought out, Debbie somehow knew that the dog was the one for her. She immediately decided to take care of Bear herself.

Bear taking a break at the SPCA ceremony

Bear taking a break at the SPCA ceremony

A special relationship was evident from the very beginning. Within three days of bringing Bear home, he started to detect when Debbie was going to have a seizure.

Bear had no formal training whatsoever. Not only could he detect the seizures, he came up with a way of warning his new companion that one was about to happen. Bear leans on Zeisler’s legs to make her sit down (to prevent her from falling) and then fetches her medicine.

These protective instincts may well have saved his owner’s life.

On Saturday May 28, 2011, Bear, sensing a seizure tried to stop his owner from going outside. Zeisler, however, ignored him on this occasion. She brushed past the dog only to collapse while descending the stairs in front of her house.

She knocked her head on the concrete and fell unconscious.


Debbie Zeisler with Bear, Terry Pena & Karen Kessler from Parker County Animal Control.

After failing to wake his owner, Bear quickly ran for assistance scratching on the doors throughout the neighbourhood trying to get help.

Fortunately as he went door to door, Bear crossed paths with an animal control officer who spotted the dog a block from his house.

The officer followed Bear back to his home where she found Debbie lying semi-conscious, disoriented and confused.

Paramedics were called and the ever loyal Bear accompanied Debbie in the ambulance to the hospital.

Bear with Debbie Zeisler receiving the National Canine Hero award in 2012

Bear with Debbie Zeisler receiving the National Hero Dog award in 2012

“This just goes to show how amazing shelter dogs can be,” said SPCA LA President, Madeline Bernstein. “If Debbie had not adopted Bear, where would she and Bear be today? The bond between an animal and his human companion is powerful and life-saving.”

Bear’s National Hero Dog prize included a year supply of free dog food and a commemorative plaque; well deserved recognition for a true canine hero.

Sources: Dog Time, Dogster

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