Last week I received a voicemail from a woman who said I might want to write about a friend of hers, whose dog had saved her life. The friend turned out to be my cousin Lana Gail, who I haven't seen since I was a teenager.
When I called her we reminisced about my late mother, who was Lana Gail's aunt, and about Princess, the black cocker spaniel/pekingese Lana Gail gave my family when I was 8. She offered Princess to my family because she was busy keeping up with her toddler son and didn't have time for a puppy. My parents initially said no, but my little girl tears and pleading melted their resistance, and shortly thereafter Princess joined our family, where she lived in spoiled-rotten bliss for 12 years.
Like Princess, Lana Gail's springer spaniel, Cooper, lives the life of canine royalty. "He's my right hand man," Lana Gail said. He even receives calls from her grandchildren, who ask to speak to Cooper when they call their grandma.
Those one-way chats with the grandkids, coupled with Cooper's devotion to his mistress, likely saved Lana Gail's life - not just once, but twice.
The first incident occurred when Lana Gail was living in Gwinn. Unbeknownst to her, the apartment had a carbon monoxide leak. Cooper, however, knew something was amiss. He refused to let Lana Gail fall asleep one night, nudging her awake whenever she started to doze off.
The next day she told a friend what had happened, and her friend said she thought she'd smelled something odd at Lana Gail's when she'd visited her the day before. A visit from a gas company serviceman confirmed that the air contained dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
Lana Gail recently moved to a home in Ishpeming. She put plastic insulation over the windows to block chilly winter drafts, unaware that she was also sealing in the fumes leaking from her gas heater.
"(That night) Cooper kept bugging me to go out. He even grabbed my pants leg and tried to drag me to the door. After awhile I told him, 'Cooper, I'm not feeling well, and it's nasty out. I'm not taking you anymore.'"
Unable to get his mistress out of the house, Cooper went into the next room, found Lana Gail's cellphone, and brought it to her. It seems that Cooper understands that cellphones equal humans - and humans can help.
Because Lana Gail felt a little better each time she stepped outside with Cooper, and because she had a doctor's appointment the next day, she stayed at home that night. At her appointment, her doctor said that she had dangerously high levels of CO in her system. Had Cooper not insisted on repeated trips outside into the fresh air, would Lana Gail have survived through the night?
Recent research has demonstrated that the bond between humans and dogs is a uniquely close one. It's also been proven that dogs who receive abundant positive attention from humans can develop the intelligence level of a 2-year-old child. None of this is news to anyone who's ever loved a dog, and received unparalleled love and devotion in return. I thank my cousin Lana Gail for sharing her story, which not only supports that research, but also demonstrates an unproven, unscientific fact: Dog love runs in families.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. "Life With a View," a collection of her Mining Journal columns, is available at area bookstores. Read her blog online at www.singlesobermom.blogspot.com.