AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A service dog in Austintown has saved a young boy’s life for three years, and after a tragic accident, the family is now returning the favor.
Crunch is a loving yellow Labrador retriever who helps 12-year-old Gavin Hutcheson whenever he is about to have a diabetic episode.
“He alerts on a daily basis,” Kim Barkelew, Gavin’s mother, said of Crunch’s ability to tell when Gavin’s blood sugar levels get too high or too low.
“He starts barking and he would walk to me and then walk to my mom and start pawing at her and then he would walk back and then walk back to my mom,” Gavin said.
“He saves his life daily. He is like his guardian angel, he really is,” Barkelew said.
Crunch is now in the fight of his life. On Saturday, the family was playing fetch with Crunch when the accident happened.
“We threw a stick. It lodged in the ground upright, he lunged to grab it and what it did, it hit his throat,” Barkelew said.
After multiple surgeries and thousands of dollars, splinters from the stick were removed, a feeding tube was put in and now Crunch is recovering from an accident that could have killed him.
“It was found he had a 2-centimeter tear in his esophagus,” Barkelew said.
Through the Florida-based group “Bryce’s Buddies,” the family was able to pay for Crunch’s surgeries. The family also has insurance that reimburses them for most of the costs.
Bryce’s Buddies Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Executive Director Brandy Duncan said that insurance is covering 80% of Crunch’s medical costs, up to $25,000 and that Crunch’s episode has already incurred $7,500 worth of expenses.
Crunch’s recovery will take weeks, and he will have the feeding tube for at least a month.
Even though Crunch is still recovering, he is home.
“It feels pretty good to know that,” Gavin said.
The family said they will face even more medical costs when they take Crunch for checkups at the vet, which is in Akron. To help Crunch and the family, click this link to donate. Those interested can also make donations at any Chase Bank location nationwide, according to Duncan.