Bella the chocolate Lab, 6, has been hailed as a hero after spending the night with the unconscious body of her groomer/caretaker after the woman had a severe seizure, then alerting a morning passerby that something was wrong.
Bella is a regular client of Shannon Henderson’s, operator of Best in Show dog grooming in Franklin, KY; owner Vicki Renshaw had left Bella in Henderson’s care while out of town. Henderson, who suffers from non-epileptic seizures, had taken Bella out for a bathroom break around 9 p.m. when a particularly bad one struck.
At the late hour, all the neighboring businesses were closed and it was a colder night than expected. Temperatures plunged into the 30s. All the while, Henderson lay outside, exposed, until about 8:30 the following morning when shopkeepers for a neighboring men’s store came to open up.
Employee Judy Lindsey noticed Bella, who looks quite a bit like her manager’s dog, over by a van in the parking lot. Co-worker Alan Meador approached Bella, who appeared to want to tell him something, he told the Charlotte Observer. She led him to a grassy lot nearby.
There, Meador discovered Henderson, unconscious on the ground. It is believed that Bella lay on top of Henderson, keeping her warm throughout the night.
“I saw (Henderson) lying there,” Meador said. “(Bella) goes over there and sits right by her and barks at me like she’s telling me something has to be done … if it wasn’t for her walking back there I never would have found (Henderson).”
He notified Lindsey, who called 911. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Henderson’s phone rang. Meador answered. It was Sandie Norwood, Henderson’s best friend.
“From the way he described her, I knew she had a massive seizure,” Norwood told the Observer. “All I knew was to get to the shop….”
Henderson, who was in the hospital for eight days following the seizure, was treated for hypothermia. She was wearing a T-shirt when she collapsed, and her body temperature got perilously low.
“I was told that if it had been another couple degrees colder, my organs would have started shutting down,” Henderson said.
She was hospitalized for a few days before learning what happened to her and how she had been found. Henderson said she was stunned at the account.
“You find that animals never let you down,” Henderson said last week. “No matter how low you are, they always treat you the same. They’re very therapeutic for me.”
Henderson, whose 22-year tenure as a vet tech preceded her dog grooming business, has endured some setbacks since her hospital stay. She has had to close Best in Show as a result. Now on anti-seizure meds, she continues to help look after dogs, Bella included.
She hopes to get a seizure-response dog to help in the event of another emergency.
The Renshaws, along with Meador and Lindsey, have stayed in touch.
“It just makes you feel good that people care because there’s sometimes not a lot of that in the world where it should be,” Henderson said.