Red Cross Hometown Heroes: 'Animal Hero' has nose for diabetes

March 13, 2015 Updated: March 13, 2015 at 9:51 pm
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photo - Diane Doremus plays with her dog, Missy Lynn May, at her home Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Missy Lynn May is receiving a Red Cross Hometown Hero award. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Diane Doremus plays with her dog, Missy Lynn May, at her home Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Missy Lynn May is receiving a Red Cross Hometown Hero award. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

At any given moment, Missy Lynn May Doremus might save your life. At the very least, she'll steal your heart.

The affable, 4½-year-old yellow pup - half Labrador retriever and half blue-nose pit bull - has become such a star that she'll have to wear sunglasses when she leaves the house, said her most recent rescue, a 57-year-old diabetic.

The man, who asked not to be identified, is the roommate of Missy Lynn May's owner, Diane Doremus, 46. He was in diabetic shock in his bedroom, with the door closed, when Missy Lynn May started running up and down the hallway.

She scratched at his door, grabbed her owner's arm and ran back to the door, recalled Doremus, who trained her dog to respond to virtually everything except diabetes.

"I knock. No answer," Doremus said. "I yell his name and still no answer. I open the door and she runs right past me and starts licking him. I can't wake him, so I call 911. They asked, 'How did you know something was wrong?' I said, 'My dog told me.' "

That was in August 2013. More recently, she said, she and her dog were in the Black Bear Diner, sitting in a booth as Missy Lynn May ate a hamburger.

"She starts crying. She goes all the way around the bar to this lady, crying, and I asked: Are you diabetic? 'Yes, why?' I said, 'You might want to take your medicine.' And she started going into diabetic shock. She took her insulin, and she was better in a few minutes."

Doremus said Missy Lynn May - named after her three previous dogs - also has saved her three times.

"I was sound asleep in bed and had a heart attack. She woke me up, licking me and everything, and I took my pills. She did that three times."

Now the American Red Cross has named Missy Lynn May the "Animal Hero" among its Colorado Springs Hometown Heroes.

"She's one miraculous dog," said Doremus' son, Jonathan Cunningham, 27.

Any skeptic need only watch Missy Lynn May perform a few of her 137 tricks, such as barking or "whispering" on command, retrieving a treat from between Doermus' teeth or poking her nose into a visitor's face.

"She's smelling your breath for diabetes," Doermus explains.

But while Doermus, her roommate and a diner at Black Bear surely feel lucky to have encountered Missy Lynn May, this dog is lucky, too.

Doermus said she saw free puppies advertised and went to a house where all the dogs but Missy Lynn May scattered when a car pulled up outside. "The husband comes into the house, kicks her, she goes flying, hits the wall and is crying. I picked her up and said, 'You just lost her.'"

She called 911 and, after responders arrived, took the injured, 2-month-old puppy to a veterinarian.

"The kick separated her stomach from her esophagus," Doermus said. "East Springs Animal Hospital was willing to take payments. When they were doing the surgery, they found a whole corncob in her stomach. It cost me $5,000. I still owe them $2,000. I don't know how I'm going to pay her."

Soon after, when Missy Lynn May's ears swelled badly after a spider bite, Doermus said she called a lot of veterinarians until one finally told her that if it were his dog, he'd give it Benadryl. She did, and three days later, Missy Lynn May was back to normal.

"That's twice I've had to save her," Doermus said. That's fewer times than her dog has saved her.

So from 6 to 9 p.m. March 18, Missy Lynn May will be strutting her stuff at the Antlers Hilton Hotel, accepting her award as the city's "Animal Hero." Any attendees with health problems can rest assured, they'll be in good paws that evening.

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