08/04/2010 at 03:55 PM EDT
He had eight beers and two 32-oz. margaritas before calling it a night and falling asleep. So when Jerry Douthett awoke an hour later to a pool of blood beneath his right foot, he thought it was a nightmare. "But when I got up and rinsed my foot off, you know what a shock it was?" says Jerry of the moment he discovered the top half of his big toe was missing. "I still can't believe it."
As Jerry, 48, yelled to his wife, "My toe is gone," the couple's 1-year-old Jack Russell terrier was following him, licking up the trail of blood, his face smeared with it. "Right then and there, I knew Kiko ate it," says wife Rosee, 40, a registered nurse. "It was so bizarre."
Yes, the dog ate Jerry's toe the night of July 24, but at the same time, the pooch most likely saved his life. For several months, a smelly infection festered in the swollen digit, but the Rockford, Mich., resident refused to see a doctor. Once at the hospital to repair the toe, he was told his blood sugar was an eye-popping 560 (the normal range is between 80 and 120) and that he had type 2 diabetes. His doctors said that with blood sugar at such a high level, Jerry could have died.
"I see Kiko eating the toe as a blessing in disguise," says Rosee. Turns out the infection – caused by the diabetes – had entered his bone, and Kiko only ate the infected part of the toe (even the bone) and left the rest. "The moral of the story is," says Jerry, whose surgeon removed the bottom half of the toe, "it is amazing that the dog saved my ass."
With their incredible sense of smell, dogs can sniff out low blood sugar
and epileptic seizures, saving their owners' lives many times over. Admittedly, eating an owner's toe to warn him he has diabetes is practically unheard of. A spokesman from the Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital
in Grand Rapids, where Douthett, was treated confirms to PEOPLEPets.com that it did indeed appear that a dog bit off his toe.
Jerry suspected he had diabetes due to losing feeling in his feet as well as extreme thirst, lethargy and genetics: Both his parents had it, and his brother died from the disease at 36. For more than a month, Kiko and other dogs that were around Jerry, a musician and handyman, had sniffed his infected foot, which smelled like "a dead rabbit," says Rosee.
When Kiko ate the toe, Jerry, in a moment of anger during his hospital stay, called animal control to euthanize Kiko. Rosee pleaded with him not to. "I was saying I don't think you can blame the dog," she says. "Kiko was just reacting to his instincts."
While Jerry quickly changed his mind – "I love him, always did," says Jerry – animal control has quarantined Kiko at home for 10 days, until Thursday. In the meantime, Rosee and Jerry have stocked up on items for Kiko to chew, scattering tons of bones around their home. Says Jerry, laughing: "He will never be without a bone." See more hero pets on PEOPLEPets.com:Pit Bulls Save Chihuahua from Near-Fatal Coyote Attack Dog Saves Canine Pal from Busy Intersection