Tootsie started out as just another pet. She has proven to be a lifeline to Rae Beno.
Beno is in the debilitating stage of Lupus. She recently developed a serious complication: seizures.
Miraculously, Tootsie knew it before she had her first one.
"At first, I didn't realize why she acted strangely," Beno said. "I didn't make the connection. Once I learned that she only acted that way when I had a seizure, I started depending on her to be able to tell me when that was going to happen."
Beno decided the best thing for Tootsie was to get her trained so now she can do more than just warn Beno a seizure is coming.
"Tootsie's been specially trained to use her own telephone to dial 911," Beno said. "If I were to go unconscious, she then goes to the phone, pushes it out of the cradle to get the dial tone and then pushes the buttons with her nose."
Like her dog, Beno also has a talent. She is an artist who wants to one day teach at the college level.
Unfortunately right now, she finds herself having to teach people service dogs are not just for the blind. One time, security at LaGuardia airport tried to take her dog away from her not believing she was really disabled.
"I said, 'Wait a minute, I'm protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act,'" Beno said. "You can't take my dog, would you take a blind person's dog?"
Beno has seizures at a rate of up to three a week. They can happen anywhere at anytime, therefore her spiritual connection is strong. She believes Tootsie was heaven sent.
"This has brought a way of continuing to do what I want to do and dream what I want to dream and be the person I am," Beno said. "I am grateful for it."
For more information on seizure dogs or to get a list of specialized trainers in the area, go to theDelta SocietyWeb site.