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Canine To The Rescue: A Blessing Named Bella



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When anyone is in the hospital, convalescent home, or even a rehabilitation center, a visit with a dog can do a world of good.

For Dolores Meehan, who has been a patient at Newtown Rehabilitation & Health Care Center since Christmas Eve, the canine that has visited her a few times has brought her great joy. Bella, a lab-boxer who was rescued by neighbor Donna Marschalk a year ago, may have also saved the life of the Newtown resident.

On Monday afternoon, January 29, Ms Marschalk and Bella paid a visit to Ms Meehan. Upon entering her friend’s room at Newtown Rehabilitation, Bella bounded to the side of Ms Meehan’s bed. She carefully climbed onto the bed, and promptly curled up with her friend. Ms Marschalk pulled a chair next to her friend’s bed, but it was Bella who had the seat of honor.

Ms Meehan fell just over seven weeks ago. She had just returned to her condo at Nunnawauk Meadows following a December 7 program in the Community Room and decided to do one last chore before turning in for the night.

“It was bitter cold, but I had my coat on anyway, so I decided to take the garbage out,” she said this week. “I went outside and lost my balance.” It was about 7:45 pm, she recalled, and fully dark outside. “I remember lying there and thinking ‘I can do this. I can get up,’” she said. “But I couldn’t.”

She began calling for her friend and neighbor Ms Marschalk, not knowing that her neighbor — who was herself recovering from a car accident a month earlier — had already turned in for the night.

“I thought if I called for Donna, that Bella would hear me,” said Ms Meehan.

From inside her home, the exuberant 2-year-old canine — who already had a very good relationship with Ms Meehan — did hear the calls for help, and she began barking.

“She never acts like that,” Ms Marschalk recalled this week, during the visit with Ms Meehan at the rehab center. “She was so excited, and would not stop barking at the door. I was so afraid she was going to bother you with all that noise,” she said to Ms Meehan.

When her owner opened the door, Bella went outside and immediately located Ms Meehan, who had reportedly fallen in a darkened area of the community.

“You wouldn’t have seen me if you just looked outside,” Ms Meehan said, looking at Ms Marschalk. “There wasn’t a light nearby.

“Bella found me, though,” she continued, nuzzling the dog lying next on the bed next to her. “The first thing she did was lie down and put her head on my shoulder.”

Ms Meehan initially thought she was uninjured. Ms Marschalk called 911, and first responders helped her neighbor, lifting her up, and moving her back into her home. Ms Meehan declined transport to the hospital, thinking she had just taken a fall without injury.

After a few days, however, she began feeling pain in her left hip and waist areas.

On Monday, December 17, she went to see her physician. An X-ray was done, and she was informed a few hours later that she was just bruised, she said.

The following morning, the pain was worse. Ms Marschalk drove her friend to an orthopedic specialist. When that doctor examined her, it was determined that Ms Meehan had in fact hurt herself worse than initially thought.

“She spent 11 days being in terrible pain until she was diagnosed with a fractured hip,” Ms Marschalk said.

Ms Meehan was admitted into Danbury Hospital on December 18, and surgery was done before the end of the week. She was transferred to Newtown Rehabilitation on Christmas Eve.

Now Ms Meehan is able to walk short distances with the aid of a walker. She continues to do physical therapy twice most days and is looking at an early February discharge.

While she suffered an injury that could have been life-threatening, she is grateful she was found shortly after her fall. She could have spent the entire night outdoors had it not been for her four-legged friend.

A 2-year-old lab-boxer mix Bella gets very comfortable during a January 28 visit with Dolores Meehan. Ms Meehan credits Bella with saving her life after a fall in early December.  (Bee Photo, Hicks)

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