Go, Gideon, go! – Pooch rescues woman who saved him


By Michelle Meehan Schrader

When Ronea Diekemper was down with a cold, her four-legged nursemaid – a rescued Australian shepherd mix named Gideon – bounded over to her bedside every time she coughed.

“He was worried about me,” Ronea, 37, of Belleville, recalled. “When I got up to eat, he followed me into the kitchen. He was being quiet. Just keeping an eye on me.”

Till being quiet was no longer an option. “A few minutes into my meal, I started choking. I couldn’t cough. I couldn’t breathe. There was no way I could talk. That’s when Gideon went crazy.”

Sensing his master was in trouble, the 80-pound pooch began barking and howling at the top of his lungs. The racket prompted a woman in a nearby apartment to check on Ronea – an act that likely saved her life.

“My neighbor performed the Heimlich maneuver on me,” Ronea said. “But she never would have known to help me if it hadn’t been for Gideon. Someone at church told me that, when translated, the name Gideon means ‘Man of Valor.’ It fits him to a tee.”

As does his new life with Ronea. Rescued by BAHS from St. Clair County Animal Control last spring, Gideon tested heartworm positive and had to undergo treatment to save his life. A BAHS volunteer, Ronea offered to foster the dog, bringing him home to convalesce.

“I suffer from PTSD, depression and major anxiety disorder,” Ronea explained, “and my therapist suggested I volunteer at the shelter as part of my therapy. It’s hard for me to trust people. But not animals. I’ve always loved animals.

“Then I fostered Gideon and within two days of him being here, I knew he had the gifts to help me with my disabilities. He seems to know exactly when an anxiety attack, or a flashback or a night terror is going to happen. He jumps up and gives me a Gideon-type hug. Or he’ll lick my face and paw at me.”

Though her apartment complex doesn’t allow dogs, an exception was made for Gideon, who presently is taking classes to earn service dog certification.

On a recent fall afternoon, the heroic pooch laid on Ronea’s living room floor, next to two laundry baskets overflowing with dog toys. He chewed on a purple sock monkey, stretching out his hind legs in what Ronea calls “his frog position.”

“He makes me feel better just being around him,” she said, proudly patting his furry grey head.

“I helped save him but then he helped save me. It’s really a question of who rescued whom.”

Ronea Diekemper poses with her hero, Gideon.



Dobie was very timid beagle mix. We thought he was shy and just wouldn’t come but now we think he was physically and mentally abused. You couldn’t touch him. You couldn’t pick him up. You couldn’t put a leash on him. But we saw the look on his face and we just fell in love.

At the time we met Dobie, there were already two applications on him at the shelter. We thought, ‘There’s no way we’ll get him.’  But both of those applications fell though. We brought him home and it took a lot of time and patience but he’s doing great now. He’s a lover. He just loves to lay on you. The more you say, ‘Good boy!’ the more his tail just wags.

He wasn’t responding when we called him Dobie so we changed his name to Copper. He responds to his new name just fine. Our other dog is a boxer-terrier mix named Harley. Copper has become Harley’s shadow. They play together constantly. We feel like we are so lucky to have them in our lives.

Jeff Gulans, 49, Belleville

Artie & Chantilly

My cats Artie and Chantilly have their own You Tube video. I haven’t updated it in a while but you can type in their names on You Tube and it’s there. Artie was kind of challenged when I got him. He had a bad adoption before me and he wound up out-of-state at Animal Control. They were going to put him to sleep and two BAHS workers drove out-of-state to rescue him.

They showed me Artie and right away he came to me. Then I brought him home and he didn’t come upstairs for a month. After a while, he’d climb up on me. He was really lonely for another cat. That’s how Chantilly came in the picture – as a companion for him. They’re really good with each other. They love playing with laser lights and cat toys. And I love having them around.

Raenita Wallace, 52, Belleville

Of the opinion you need not spay or neuter your pet?

Paws and think about it…

  • For every person born, 15 dogs and 45 cats are also born. There are not enough homes for even a fraction of these animals – even if EVERY person in EACH household took in a pet.
  • Theoretically, a female cat can give birth to up to three litters a year throughout her lifetime. Female cats do not go into menopause like humans do. Assuming a cat lives 15 years, this could result in approximately 180 kittens.
  • A typical dog produces one litter per year with an average number of six puppies per litter. This means, an unspayed dog could result in the birth of 60 or more puppies over her lifetime.
  • Assuming all these kittens and puppies multiply – which they likely will if left unsterilized — the result will be thousands more homeless dogs and cats.
  • Unneutered male dogs and cats are half the equation of these conceptions.

Between six and eight million dogs and cats enter US shelters EACH YEAR.

Please spay and neuter your pets!


I train PTSD service dogs for military and first responders. Goose is my year-old black Lab. I originally got her from the shelter to train for a placement. She does everything perfectly. She can turn light switches on and off. Do anxiety alerts. But she has this tiny thread of shyness when it comes to yelling. Some of our veterans yell. So placing her as a PTSD service dog didn’t work out. I wound up keeping her and she’s now the official ‘spokesdog’ for Got Your Six support dogs. ‘Got Your Six’ is military slang for ‘got your back.’ The majority of support dogs we train are rescues.  Goose gets to go everywhere with me. Presentations. Movies. Restaurants. She’s happy because she’s never alone. And I’m happy because she’s just a great dog.

Nicole Lanahan, 36, of Collinsville



My dog Rodney is a Bassett-Lab mix. He’s really kind of weird looking. He’s got these stubby legs and a Lab head. He’s a complicated dog. He’s very selective in who he likes. But that’s OK. He’s attached to me. I can’t do anything wrong in his opinion. I used to volunteer at the Humane Society and Rodney had been adopted and returned more than once. Everyone said he was destructive when they were gone. I have two other dogs, so I thought having the other dogs for company would calm him down. He’s had no problems at all at my house. No destructive activity or separation anxiety whatsoever. The only problem is Rodney hates men. He’s finally gotten used to my husband, though. I told him, ‘He earns the money that puts the kibble in your bowl.’

Lorna Whisenhunt, 54, of Belleville

Willy & Figgy

I adopted my two cats Willy and Figgy (formerly Billy and Figero) because they were FIV positive. I felt so sorry for them. I thought nobody would adopt them because they’d think they were sick. They’re not really. They’re doing great. The vet said they could have a shorter lifespan but my daughter has had a cat that’s FIV positive for years. My two cats are darling. One’s cuter than the other. Figgy is the little one. He’s a brat – still half kitten. I can’t wait till he outgrows that. And Willy is just a lover, so sweet. The two of them follow me from room to room and sleep with me at night. Willy sleeps up toward my head and Figgy is down by my feet. They’re not there all night of course. They like to get up and romp around. There’s never a dull moment with those two.

Patricia Sullivan, 77, of Belleville

Boss – A Pit Bull


Boss is a pit bull-mastiff mix. He’s on the couch right now looking at me real strange because I’m eating a piece of pizza. Guess he wants it. He spent the day with me hanging out while I bartended at my bar the Double Deuce in Cahokia. All the customers know him there and the mailman brings him a dog biscuit every day when he drops off the mail. He’s just a great dog. My wife picked him out at the shelter as an anniversary present. He doesn’t get along well with other animals. But he loves people. He has no prejudiced bones in his body. Black. White. Purple. Polka dot. They’re all the same to him. He just doesn’t like dogs and cats. We don’t have any animals in our bar — just people — so that works out great.

Mike Olish, 66, of Cahokia