Dogs will literally lick tears off their owners’ sad faces — they’re furry, dopey-faced guardian angels, and anyone that’s ever owned a pooch knows it. Dogs bring such joy to our lives and truly wish to protect us from the evils of the world. But sometimes those evils aren’t so obvious.
While the goldendoodle named Pinkalicious LilyBelle may have seen the world in dull shades of near black-and-white, he never took his focus off of little Meghan Weingarth. She suffered from a rare genetic disorder and a life-threatening allergy, but the pooch had a one-of-a-kind skill with the potential to save her life.
Jennifer Schillig and Andrew Weingarth, right, enjoy a peaceful life with their three children in Suwanee, Georgia. Though their lives overflowed with blessings, they experienced a snag in the peace when Meghan was four months old.
Andrew Weingarth / Facebook
At that tender age, Meghan was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a rare, multi-system genetic disease that causes benign tumors to grow on the brain and other vital organs. The family was devastated.
Christopher Furlong / Getty Images
Every medication Meghan tried only offered disheartening results, and because the universe was feeling extra cruel, Meghan’s parents discovered she had a nut allergy when she was three years old.
Growing up was tough for the little one, as she had much to overcome on top of the regular ol’ growing pains. But when Meghan turned seven in 2013, Jennifer Schillig had an idea that would possibly make her daughter’s life more comfortable.
Lindsay Weingarth / Facebook
Jennifer figured Meghan may benefit from having a service dog to provide emotional support and assist with her violent seizures. Jennifer and Andrew felt more at ease with a companion around to watch over Meghan in the middle of the night and at school.
Dorothy Kozlowski / UGA
The more Jennifer thought, the more she liked the idea, and she knew Meghan would as well. She found a private trainer, as Jennifer really wanted Meghan to form a close bond with a puppy. C’mon, what kid doesn’t love puppies?
Inside Edition / YouTube
Though service animals were not covered by insurance, Meghan’s parents decided to take the chance. But they’d need help from family, friends, and believe it or not, Meghan’s Girl Scout troop.
Shelia Herman / Flickr
The resourceful Troop 2492 organized a garage sale, which the endearing elementary school girls sweetly named “Meghan’s Miracle,” to raise money for Meghan’s service future service dog, LilyBelle.
Meanwhile, Jennifer’s friend hosted a Silpada jewelry party to raise funds, and another friend set up a lemonade stand, which she named “Lily’s Lemonade Stand.” Jennifer and Andrew were touched by the support from others.
John Blanding / The Boston Globe
Along with a few other anonymous donations, everyone’s beautiful, selfless efforts paid off. Apparently the seven-year-old officially named the pup “Pinkalicious LilyBelle,” but, er, she goes by LilyBelle for short.
But LilyBelle didn’t initially live with Meghan, as the goldendoodle stayed with her trainer at Georgia K9 Academy full-time for a while. LilyBelle spent weekends with her, though, and accompanied her to medical appointments. Their connection grew.
Georgia K9 Academy, LLC / Facebook
When Meghan was hospitalized for pneumonia, which was a 15-day nightmare, LilyBelle was right by Meghan’s side, as if to tell her that it would all be alright. Eventually LilyBelle moved in with Meghan and her family, who were all thrilled.
Dr. Marty Becker / Facebook
“Meghan was very happy and excited to have Lily as her special dog. The bond was instantaneous and beautiful. Lily definitely knows that Meghan is her person,” Jennifer told Suwanee Magazine.
Georgia K9 Academy
“It is difficult to find the words to really explain it, but Meghan is more at ease when Lily is around. Meghan has more tolerance for medical tests and appointments. (Meghan’s) anxiety level is lower when Lily is with her,” Jennifer continued.
TheCottonShow / YouTube
Blood draws were particularly unsettling for little Meghan, but LillyBelle kept her calm. And while the emotional support alone was soothing for the whole family, LilyBelle underwent a particular training that practically gave her a superpower.
Kathy M Helgeson / University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Unbelievably, LilyBelle was trained to sniff out peanuts and almonds in Meghan’s food, and would raise her paw if any of those deadly nuts were present. Meghan could go into anaphylactic shock if she comes into contact with nuts, so LilyBelle’s incredible skill was a blessing.
“Before LilyBelle things were very challenging. I couldn’t leave Meghan in the room on her own as she always wanted me by her side,” Jennifer explained of life prior to the miracle goldendoodle.
Lindsay Weingarth / Facebook
“Now LilyBelle’s there I can leave the room and do other household chores such as the washing and cleaning without worrying about Meghan,” Jennifer continued. The feeling of relief and solace that washed over Meghan’s family was unreal, and it was all because of a four-legged angel.
The then-seven-year-old Meghan weighed in on the subject of LilyBelle, AKA Pinkalicious LilyBelle, saying she enjoyed playing with LilyBelle, and that her friends and family say LilyBelle is “so cute.” Only the important issues, people. Adorably, she also announced, “I am happy!”
LilyBelle was the gift that gift that kept on giving, but to be fair, the sweet pupper did go to school to achieve such greatness. Though 17-year-old Elise Kilmer’s puppy, Saige, wasn’t as educated per se, she, too, would prove her life-saving superpowers.
Elise Kilmer was enjoying a quaint spring afternoon eating lunch with her grandmother. Once Elise was full, she needed to lay down and digest next to her new labradoodle puppy, Saige. She was lucky she brought the dog with her.
Alexis Oatman / The News-Herald
While her grandmother was still plopped at the kitchen table downstairs, Elise enjoyed some well-needed downtime in her upstairs bedroom alongside her furry friend. All was well…until Saige began frantically barking and scratching at the bedroom door just 20 minutes later.
Elise was shocked, as this was out of character for Saige. She opened the door and let the panicked doggo lead the way down to the kitchen, only to reveal a scene she wished was a mirage.
Elise’s stomach flipped when she saw that her grandmother, who suffered from dementia, had fallen onto the hard kitchen floor. Something was wrong, and Saige had sensed it from the floor above.
“I’m not sure if she had heard my grandma fall out of the chair or something, but she definitely knew. They hear things that we don’t hear,” Elise told the WJW station. Unfortunately Elise’s grandma was unresponsive to her worried calls.
CBS17 / YouTube
While the elderly woman lay flat on the tile, her legs were still intertwined in the chair. Elise nearly turned pale when she saw food and foam leaking from her grandmother’s mouth. The kitchen was quickly a terrifying scene.
FOX8 News Cleveland / YouTube
Elise felt like time had slowed down when she further inspected her grandmother, noticing that her hands and face had turned an awful reddish purple color. She was unresponsive, and Elise knew what she had to do.
“I was shocked at first, so I ran over to her and picked her up and laid her down on the floor because she was unconscious and then grabbed the phone and called 911,” Elise explained. Though in a state of shock, Elise proved to work efficiently under pressure.
As a champion equestrian, Elise had operated with all eyes on her for years. Before the EMTs arrived, she felt she needed to take further action to save her dear grandmother’s life, as she noticed her breathing was sporadic.
And since the teen was also a lifeguard at her local YMCA, she implemented her Heimlich maneuver knowledge to attempt to resuscitate her granny before first responders showed up. As the clock was ticking, Elise’s adrenaline level was rising.
Medics arrived shortly after and rushed Elise’s grandmother to a hospital. Elise was completely shook, but if her spry, golden sidekick weren’t in the house with granny, who knows who long it would have taken Elise to come downstairs.
“It was really great because I don’t know when I would’ve come out of my room and if it would’ve been too late by then. Saige definitely helped me get down there in time,” Elise said of her young labradoodle, clearly crediting her sharp senses.
“I guess if no one was home it would have been a completely different outcome,” she calmly stated to WJW. She further discussed how proud she was to have helped save her grandmother’s life.
Elise’s Grandma remained in the hospital for two nights, and though quite confused, she recovered like a champ. The heroic Ohio teen was so glad to have her grandma back in good health that she was completely blindsided by her community’s reaction.
The Red Cross of Northeast Ohio honored the sweet girl with a Greater Cleveland Hero Award on March 12, 2020, for her quick rescue efforts. She was a model citizen, as well as a model granddaughter.
Red Cross of Northeast Ohio
“This event honors those who have performed heroic acts of extraordinary courage to become someone’s hero,” read the organization’s website. The website encourages people to nominate local heroes for said award, such as those who’ve perhaps saved a child from drowning, or performed CPR on a stranger.
“These are ordinary people who put themselves in harm’s way or have even risked their own lives to save another,” the statement continued. Elise more-than fit the bill.
Elise drew praise from huge media outlets, such as People and Metro, the American Red Cross, various news stations, and, perhaps most importantly, from her mother, who said her selfless, valiant efforts were very much synonymous with who she was as an individual.
Geauga County Maple Leaf
“I’m not really surprised about Elise’s abilities because she’s always been a mature individual. We’re extremely proud of her,” said Elise’s mother, Melanie. While speaking to WJW, Melanie seemed to nod her head in a knowing way, as if Elise saves lives on the regular.
CBS17 / YouTube
“Knowing that I am capable of saving someone, and I have saved someone, and I can do it again if I needed to, and having that person still in my life with me — I’m very grateful for that,” Elise said in an American Red Cross video as she fought tears.
American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio / YouTube
The undaunted teen plans to study Horse Production and Management in college. Until then, we’re sure she’ll be holding Saige closely by her side, and her heart. Obviously Saige wasn’t exactly performing the heimlich maneuver herself, but without that little labradoodle, Elise may not have her grandmother today.
CBS17 / YouTube
Yeah, Saige didn’t know what she was protecting Elise’s granny from necessarily, but she knew there was danger afoot. This seems to be a common occurrence in the doggo community, as Stephanie Herfel’s new puppy, too, sensed a medical peril that nobody else saw.
Marine and mom Stephanie Herfel was tough as nails. Still, she couldn’t help but feel sad to see her son go overseas with the Air Force. But there was one part of his departure he didn’t initially tell her about… and it involved a fluffy, blue-eyed husky.
Stephanie’s son didn’t want her to feel too lonely while he was away, so he arranged a special gift for her. He entered their California home one morning with a smile spreading ear to ear.
Facebook / Stephanie Herfel
He presented her with Sierra, a 9-month-old husky! Stephanie and Sierra became fast friends, and their bond only deepened over the years. Sierra accompanied Stephanie and her husband Jim on a cross-country move to Wisconsin in 2013 without a whimper.
In the back of her mind, Stephanie always knew that Sierra was a very special dog. However, she was about to find out exactly how unique Sierra was — and thank goodness for that…
One afternoon, Stephanie began experiencing some pain and discomfort in her stomach. She figured she’d just eaten something bad and was suffering through some bad food poisoning. When the sensation continued after several days, she visited her doctor.
Stephanie’s doctor brushed off her concerns, saying at worst she was dealing with an ovarian cyst. He sent her home with some pain medication, which would, he thought, set her right as rain.
Once Stephanie returned from the doctor, Sierra perked up. That part wasn’t unusual. At the same time, though, the husky appeared to be more energized than most days. What was up with Sierra?
Sierra joined Stephanie on the couch and immediately thrust her nose into Stephanie’s abdomen. Taken aback, she tried to slide away from the dog. Sierra refused to give up, however, and kept sniffing.
In all her years with Sierra, Stephanie had never seen the husky act like this before. Maybe she’d spilled something on her clothes and hadn’t noticed? Before she had a chance to check, Sierra bolted from the room.
Completely baffled, Stephanie followed the dog’s trail through the house. She found her huddled into a ball in the back of a closet. Clearly, Sierra was trying to express that something was wrong, but what could it be?
YouTube / Lunatic the Husky and April
By this point, Stephanie trusted her dog more than anyone else on Earth. She couldn’t help but think back to her abdominal issues. Perhaps, through some miracle, Sierra knew something that nobody else did.
So Stephanie scheduled another doctor’s visit, and there, Stephanie’s worst fears were realized: tests showed that she had ovarian cancer, which reached a pretty advanced stage! They would have to act fast to save Stephanie’s life.
In addition to chemotherapy, Stephanie underwent a hysterectomy and a spleen removal surgery in 2014. These procedures put a lot of stress on the Herfel family, but at least Stephanie had her trusty dog at her side during her recovery.
To no one’s surprise, Stephanie bounced back! The next year passed without much to write home about, which was fine by her. Stephanie was ready to move onto the next chapter of her life…until Sierra began acting strangely once again.
Just like on the day of Stephanie’s botched doctor visit, Sierra intently smelled her owner’s body and sprinted away. Stephanie ran to the doctor, and sure enough, her cancer had returned!
And so it was Stephanie went through another round of treatment. Doctors once again gave her the all clear. A year later, though, yet again, Sierra went wild and sniffed Stephanie’s abdomen!
For a third time, Sierra correctly diagnosed a tumor inside Stephanie. Treatment. Release. Recovery. Rinse and repeat. Surely, she must’ve thought, this would be the last diagnosis.
Well, as of 2018, she’s been cancer-free ever since! Leaving that dingy hospital bed behind, Stephanie wanted to return to her life and help others suffering from disease. But she couldn’t help but wonder: how did Sierra know?
Doctor David Kushner, Stephanie’s primary oncologist, had a theory. He explained that certain dog breeds can detect chemical traces given off by tumors with an accuracy of up to 98 percent.
Stephanie and Jim were lucky enough to own a canine with this special gift. They decided not to squander their good fortune. They went public about their amazing story, hoping it could help other people who went undiagnosed.
Stephanie also got involved with the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance, where she eventually rose to a seat on the board. Sierra is a pretty big local celebrity to everyone in the organization too.
Ultimately, Stephanie believes her story “can let people think about their animals and think, ‘Wow, my animal did this when I got diagnosed.’ Just to give the animals credit that they are pretty smart.”