Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eyeblack Challenger: Juno

Juno is a Belgian Malinois who was adopted by the family of Lucas Hembree, a four year old with Sanfilippo syndrome, which is an untreatable and ultimately fatal disease. 

The Hembrees rescued Juno days before she was slated to be euthanized.  The previous owners had given her up because they didn't understand the drive and activity of the breed.  But Chester Hembree, Lucas' dad, did.

“I used to help with the training of police K-9s, and our dogs were Belgian Malinoises,” he says. “I loved their desire to work and their ‘never quit’ attitude.”  In addition to being a popular choice for police dogs, the breed is often used in combat. In fact, it’s believed that the dog that helped Navy SEALs take down Osama bin Laden was a Belgian Malinois.

 After introducing Juno to Lucas, the two have been inseparable. 

“I wanted to make sure she had plenty of time to adjust to the family before I started the formal training,” Chester says. Yet, from the beginning there seemed to be something instinctive about their relationship. One day, Chester noticed Juno circling Lucas while he was in his wheelchair. “She was whining and nudging him with her nose,” Chester says. “I checked his oxygen levels and they were very low.” After giving him oxygen, Lucas returned to normal and Juno greeted him with licks and affection.
Image: Juno watches over Lucas during a recent trip to the hospital.
Courtesy Of The Hembree Family  /
“That’s when I knew she had the ability to pick up on his neurological changes,” Chester says. “Now she alerts us when Lucas is about to have a seizure or if his oxygen levels drop really low. She has saved him several times."

Their story is here.