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March 5, 2012

Dog of Valor: A Pomeranian Named Gangsta

2011 Dogs of Valor finalist came to the rescue when a seizure struck

  • Dog of Valor finalist Gangsta saved owner Debra Lowery after she had a seizure. Debra Lowery

by Ruthanne Johnson

When Debra Lowery stepped into the shower in the predawn hours of Feb. 13, 2010, she set off a chain of events that almost ended her life.

Following a blizzard that had blown through Seldon, N.Y., the 21-year-old had been called to fill in for a coworker. She readied for work as the rest of her family snuggled under their bedcovers.

"The next thing I remember is waking up and my father is above me and a policeman and an EMT," she says.

She later learned that, during an epileptic seizure, she had fallen in the shower and hit the spigot, causing searing hot water to come gushing out—and that her family's Pomeranian, Fluffy "Gangsta" McGee, had saved her life.

Perhaps Gangsta had heard Lowery fall or sensed her oncoming seizure. She and her older sister Denise, also an epileptic, often notice their dog acting differently just before an attack.

"She'll lay her head on her paws and just look at you," says Denise. "Or she'll lie within a foot of you and won’t leave."

Shortly after Lowery's fall, Gangsta rushed down the stairs—which normally frighten her—and started barking and throwing her body against the bathroom door.

 "She's not like this huge dog with a big powerful voice that was barking," Lowery says. "She's this tiny dog that just wouldn't stop."

When Debra's father and sisters opened the door, they found Lowery floating unconscious in the scalding water, her face under the faucet.

"Her eyes were open and they were dark purple," Denise says.

As the two girls tried pulling their sister from the tub, her skin peeled off in their hands. Then their father ran in and lifted her onto the floor, yelling for Denise to call 911.

The EMTs later told Lowery’s family that she probably would have died within another minute.

When Lowery returned home after 38 days in the hospital, Gangsta was beside herself.

"It was like she just wanted to take care of me." The dog sniffed and desperately wanted to kiss Lowery but couldn't because she was still healing.

"We had to teach her to kiss my hands and … we set up a bed for her right next to me."

Gangsta became her vigilant protector, sleeping beside her every night. With surgeries still ahead for Lowery, the two must remain careful.

But now Gangsta can do no wrong. Not that she ever could.

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