Elkhart County Service Dog Displays a Unique Talent
by Tom Moore
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
ELKHART — A dog left in a drop box at the Elkhart County Humane Society is making the most of a second chance at life.
Fancy, a 3-year-old Kai Ken-shepherd mix, was adopted by Darlene Guthrie in 2005, when Fancy was just 5 weeks old and weighed less than 3 pounds.
Guthrie, Elkhart Police Department’s animal rescue officer at the time, saw Fancy while dropping off a couple of other neglected dogs. It was love at first sight.
“She was so small; she looked like a kitten,” Guthrie recalled. “She kept batting her foot out of the cage. I picked her up and fell in love.”
But that was only the beginning. It wasn’t long until Guthrie noticed Fancy had a special talent — the ability to sense seizures in other dogs before they happen.
When Guthrie’s old Labrador dog began having seizures, Fancy would come to Guthrie and her husband.
“She’d come and get us and sit with the dog and us until it was over,” Guthrie said. “We just thought she was smart.”
Guthrie researched procedures to have a dog become a certified work dog and has been working with Fancy for the past several years. Fancy is registered with the United States Service Dog Registry and is considered a service dog.
But Fancy really did have a special talent, apart from being intelligent, and it wasn’t just sensing seizures in other dogs. Guthrie found that out when she developed epilepsy and began having seizures herself in September.
“I knew it was coming when she’d come up to me,” said Guthrie, who owns other dogs. “All you can do is lie down. She would actually stand over me, so my other dogs wouldn’t step over me. She literally stands over me and pushes the dogs off.
“I know I can trust her. I know exactly what she’s trying to tell me. I take her everywhere, now.”
Fancy would alert her owner about 15 seconds before a seizure, come over to her and start shaking.
Because of medication, Guthrie rarely has seizures anymore, but her condition did force her to retire recently from the Police Department, a job she loved for the past 20 years — 12 serving as the animal rescue officer.
Fancy is now Guthrie’s full-time service dog.
“Most service dogs do not want you to pet them,” Guthrie said. “Not because they’re not social, but because they’re working. But I have a sign around her in public that says, ‘I’m friendly, please pet me.’ ”