By: Lane Phalen
Eight-year-old Olivia Miller asked for a Chihuahua for Christmas, but what shereceived was far more precious than just any pet. That's because Olivia and hernew little dog both have diabetes and today they comfort and encourage eachother through the rigors of dealing with the disease.
Olivia's family adoptedthe special-needs pet at TAILS Humane Society in DeKalb, Illinois, and every daythe 10-pound dog, now named Noel, supports the little girl through the hardtimes.
"I don't really know anyone else who has diabetes, so we talk about ittogether," said Olivia of her beloved Chihuahua.
Olivia cradles Noel like a baby. "I tell Noel that it's okay to have diabetes.She likes to give me little kisses."
"We use the same size shots," Olivia continued. "She's not scared when she getsshots. I show her the shot first so she knows what it is and then I lift up someskin around her collar and give her the shot. If she squeaks, I just hug her,but most of the time she doesn't even know it's happening."
Olivia, daughter of Lisa and Dean Miller of DeKalb, was diagnosed with juvenilediabetes when she was six years old. Around that time, Olivia began asking herparents for a Chihuahua. Shortly before Christmas that year, the Millersreceived TAILS Humane Society's fall newsletter and read the story of Angel, aneglected Chihuahua who had been left to die.
One summer day, a realtor showing a prospective buyer a country home was shockedto find a little dog apparently abandoned on the property. It was barely alive.The realtor called the Humane Investigation Department at TAILS and a licensedhumane investigator rushed to the scene.
The Chihuahua was indeed close to deathand couldn't even raise her head to take the piece of bread offered to her. Thehumane investigator then called in officers from DeKalb County Animal Controland the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.
The dog was rushed to Prairie View Animal Hospital where she requiredround-the-clock care for four weeks. It did not take the veterinarian long todiagnose the Chihuahua's diabetes. Named Angel by the Prairie View staff, sheentered foster care when she left the hospital. A trained, licensed volunteerin TAILS' network of foster families took over her rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, Angel's original owner was charged with animal cruelty for failure toprovide necessary veterinary care to a companion animal. She was found guilty,sentenced to 18 months probation, and ordered to relinquish the dog and payrestitution for Angel's treatment over the course of two months, a bill of$1600.
By Halloween, Angel's blood sugar levels had stabilized with twice-daily insulininjections. She gained weight and quickly recovered her natural playfulness andenergy. When she was at last healthy and ready for adoption, everyone at TAILSknew that this adoption would not be a simple matter. A special family would beneeded to make the commitment to this pet's ongoing needs. TAILS decided tofeature the story in its fall newsletter in hopes that someone would be touchedby the resilience and delightful spirit of this little dog that had been throughso much.
When Lisa Miller read the story her first thought was, "I wouldn't give up on mydaughter, so I wouldn't want someone to give up on her [Angel]."
Feeling that Angel was "meant to be ours," the Millers read Angel's storytogether as a family and then began the adoption process. They took the family'srat terrier, Ruby, to meet Angel and see if the dogs were compatible. Theintroduction was a great success and the adoption was completed that day. "WhenI first saw her," Olivia said, "I just thought she was the cutest little thing."
Olivia's Christmas Angel became Noel and today the Chihuahua lives the good lifeas a valued member of the Miller family, which also includes Olivia's brotherNoah, age 12, and two cats. The whole Miller menagerie is ruled by Noel, whoaccording to Lisa "is a true Chihuahua with a big bark for such a little dog."
"We have a fenced-in backyard," Lisa explained, "and Noel loves to soak in thesun. She and Ruby chase squirrels and bark. Every day they run to greet thepostman who gives them each a treat."
Every time someone opens a kitchen cupboard, Noel comes running, hoping for atreat. Her favorite snack is apple. Lisa said that Noel also likes to steal thecats' treats, but everyone in the family keeps an eye on Noel's diet, animportant part of her diabetes treatment plan.
Olivia keeps a diagnostician's eye on Noel. "I can tell if Noel's blood sugar ishigh," she said, "because she drinks a lot of water and goes to the bathroom alot. When it's low, she falls over and is tired."
And Olivia isn't the only doctor in the house. Her brother Noah has taken suchan interest in his sister's and Noel's common disease that he wants to become aveterinarian when he grows up.
"Both Noah and Olivia prepare shots for Noel," said Lisa. "Noel patiently sitsand waits for them."
Olivia adds, "And she's not scared."
To Olivia, Noel is more than just a therapy dog. "She's my cute little baby. Ilike to dress her up like Little Red Riding Hood and for Halloween we were bothprincesses."
"Noel is everything Olivia wished for," said Lisa. "She's a big part of ourfamily for being such a little dog. We all love her."
Noel, the Chihuahua that nearly didn't live, thrives with the Millers and theMillers are in turn enriched by Noel, proof that one can never predict theimpact a single small life may have on another.