EASTPOINTE — An Eastpointe man’s life was saved when his 3-year-old dog prodded him awake after he slipped into a diabetic coma last month.
It wasn’t the first time Colby, a purebred American pit bull, saved 34-year-old Fred Klages’ life.
Klages has type 1 diabetes. He’s been living with the disease since he was a toddler — he manages it with at-home blood tests and insulin injections. When his blood sugar level gets too high, the insulin brings it back down to normal, usually.
Insulin injections are the most common form of diabetes management, but sometimes, for various reasons, they can cause blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low.
That’s what happened to Klages Feb. 14.
“That night, I remember testing my blood sugar and it was a little high so I took insulin and laid on the couch and fell asleep,” Klages said. “The last thing I remember is falling asleep on the couch, and then the next thing I know, I wake up with him right there, sitting in front of me barking, and I think to myself, ‘Why is he barking?’”
Klages got up and staggered toward the bathroom. He was having a hard time walking, a telltale sign his blood sugar had fallen too low.
“I could barely walk. I knew something was wrong,” Klages said. “And then I noticed the blood. I looked in the mirror and called the ambulance because I didn’t know what had happened. There was blood all over my shoulders. ”
Colby had been barking and pawing at Klages face and head in an effort to wake him up and, in doing so, scratched him up. Klages blood sugar had fallen so low that he hadn’t felt a thing.
Before the paramedics arrived, Klages tested his blood.
“It was 16,” he said. “It was that close to zero. Average is 120. It was way low.”
If Colby hadn’t woken him up, he would have died, but in attempting to wake him, the 95-pound dog unintentionally injured him.
Responding paramedics and doctors at the hospital where Klages was taken were required to fill out bite reports. They informed him that Colby might have to be put to sleep, pending an investigation. Eastpointe Animal Control Officer Kim Walton was assigned the case.
After looking into the incident, Walton decided that Colby was not only far from vicious, but she referred to him as a perfect dog.
“(Klages) has, multiple times, passed out due to his blood sugar being extremely low, and the dog has, on numerous occasions, woke him up and brought him out of the shock he started to fall into,” Walton said.
“Well, apparently, his blood sugar fell extremely low this time and he fell into a very deep shock (or diabetic coma), and the dog actually ended up clawing him up pretty good, but it was all in trying to wake him up. He is only alive today because of this animal.”
The injuries to Klages’ face were severe. Both of his ears were clawed repetitively and for so long that they required reconstructive surgery.
“He did sustain injuries, but he is alive,” Walton said. “The dog did what it always has done and tried to wake him up. He got him pretty good, and he ended up needing surgery, but at the end of the day, he is still here and that is because of this dog.”
One month after the incident, life is pretty much back to normal for Klages and Colby. Klages has to have another surgery on his right ear, but other than that, his wounds have healed, leaving behind only scars. He worries what people think when they see his scars and hear that Colby is a pit bull.
“It’s just me and him here, so he’s my best friend and kind of my roommate, too,” Klages said. “He’s not what you hear about is the typical pit bull. You can put any given dog in my backyard and he’s fine with it, whether it’s male or female. And kids are another thing — he loves kids.”
Not only is Colby gentle — he’s intelligent. He hasn’t had any type of special training, although Klages is looking into it now.
“The fact that he can differentiate between sleeping and losing consciousness is amazing,” Walton said, while visiting Colby March 18.
This case hit close to home for her.
“My dad was a type 2 diabetic, and he passed out and nobody was there to help him regain consciousness,” Walton said. Her father, Lewis Walton, died after passing out from diabetic shock on March 14, 2008.
“If my dad had a Colby in his life, he’d probably still be here.”
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