A Bite and Bark That Saved a Life

Belle the beagle will be honored at  the VITA Wireless Samaritan Awards tonight in the District. Her training helped Kevin Weaver, a diabetic.
Belle the beagle will be honored at the VITA Wireless Samaritan Awards tonight in the District. Her training helped Kevin Weaver, a diabetic. (By Julie Fletcher -- Orlando Sentinel)
By Leef Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 19, 2006

Belle Weaver is flying into the nation's capital today to receive an award for saving a family member's life. Before she leaves town, she'll meet with her congressman, accept a certificate autographed by a football great and bow her head to receive a medal.

Stories such as hers, of heroism and quick thinking, are always inspiring. But this one has a twist, and not just because Belle is 3 years old.

You see, Belle Weaver is a beagle. She used her owner's cellphone to call 911.

Her owner, Kevin Weaver, 34, was in the throes of a diabetic seizure, lying unconscious on his kitchen floor in Ocoee, Fla., when Belle located his phone and chomped down on the keypad, triggering a call.

The only thing emergency dispatchers heard was barking, but it was enough cause to send help, they reasoned. Weaver, a former flight attendant, woke up hours later in the hospital, weak and disoriented. Belle was there by his side, having finagled a ride in the ambulance.

Today the pint-size canine is taking a plane to Washington -- and not in the cargo hold, mind you -- to be honored. Belle will be the first animal to receive the VITA Wireless Samaritan Award, presented each year by the CTIA Wireless Foundation. The foundation honors those who use their wireless phones to save lives, stop crime or help in other emergencies. Cingular Wireless submitted Belle's nomination.

"We get that wireless is a new way for rude people to be rude to one another," said David Diggs, executive director of the Wireless Foundation, acknowledging that cellphones are known too often for shattering the peace in restaurants and on trains. "But at the same time, the safety benefits that this technology has brought, we think, are immeasurable."

It's not every day that a household pet saves a life. Cats are hardly so concerned with our general well-being, and goldfish, well, they're pretty much out of the running. But doctors told Weaver that had Belle not intervened before his roommates arrived home -- leaving Weaver alone for five hours on the kitchen floor with dangerously low blood sugar -- he probably wouldn't have made it.

"I would have died," said Weaver, still a bit incredulous about the whole experience. "I would have slipped into a coma and died."

For her part, Belle was hardly the pedigreed hero in waiting. In fact, as a puppy, she was returned to the pet store twice by dissatisfied buyers before Weaver's friend mentioned seeing the doggy in the window.

"I felt sorry for her," Weaver said about that encounter less than two years ago. "I went in and said, 'She's mine.' "

From that moment, Belle assumed the role of cherished pet. She had no special skills other than friendship. But as Weaver's lifelong struggle with diabetes got worse and he developed seizures, a frequent passenger on one of his flights suggested that he give Belle special training as a medical assistance dog.

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