VERO BEACH, Fla. - They say a dog is man's best friend, and there's a dog in Vero Beach who's living proof.
She may be tiny, but Pei Pei packs a powerful punch. Not only can she sense her owner's moods, she can contact emergency responders when he's in danger. The service dog is a mix of a beloved family member and a diligent worker who could rescue her owner's life if need be.
"Go get help!" James Taylor shouted to his 11-pound pug. Pei Pei ran to a phone on the living room floor and pressed both paws onto the large, circular button. The dial tone sounded. Praise followed.
With the press of that single button, service dog Pei Pei can dial 9-1-1. That's a huge comfort for the retired Army police officer, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss. Sometimes he falls too, so Pei Pei is his 'saving grace.'
"Without her, I couldn't imagine my life. I'd probably be home-bound a lot because of what I suffer severely. I know if I have any kind of problems, she's going to help me right through it," said Taylor.
When the Vero Beach resident is in a crowd, he sometimes feels panic. Pei Pei is his buffer and companion.
"If I'm out, like in Walmart or somewhere, I give her a 'go out' command, and she'll actually circle around me to keep the people three and four feet away from me," Taylor said proudly.
To help with Taylor's hearing loss, Pei Pei is all ears.
"If someone knocks on the front door, rings it, wherever I'm at, she'll find me in the house and then tap me, and I follow her," Taylor explained.
If the fire alarm goes off, she'll find him and turn in circles. If he's having a nightmare, he says she'll lick his face to wake him up.
Taylor rescued the pug from Halo Rescue in Sebastian. The Vero Beach-based organization "Dogs for Life" taught him how to train her, which took two years.
Taylor and his wife dote on Pei Pei. She has her own room and her own wardrobe of 34 tailored outfits.
"She just learns something every single day, and that's what Dogs for Life has taught us; how to use her and live a happy, normal life," said Taylor. It's a life he's glad to have with a friend and ally by his side.
Dogs for Life is raising money to build a service dog training facility in Vero Beach, specially for veterans. So far, the organization has placed three dogs in veterans' homes.