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More Than A Rescue
The Nissen family of Escalon are hardly strangers to rescuing pets from local shelters.

According to mom Michelle their current dog Melody, a Dachshund/ terrier mix is the third dog they have rescued from the Oakdale Animal Shelter. Due to a tragic accident taking the life of their second Oakdale rescue dog, Mia, a Chihuahua/terrier mix found the family back at the shelter in the Spring of 2008.

"We had adopted Mia and several months later she was hit by a car in front of our home and my children," Michelle said.

For 11-year-old son Nels, who has special needs, the incident was not only shocking, but devastating. Nels and his sister Kasie convinced their mother to return to the Oakdale Animal Shelter the following day to rescue another small dog.

While, Michelle admits to being reluctant at first she eventually gave in.

"We had gotten her (Mia) for the children," she said. "I especially wanted to get another dog for my son to help him recover from what he had seen when she got hit."

In the case of the Nissen family and the Oakdale Animal Shelter the third time proved to indeed be the charm.

Facing a recent diagnosis with Parkinson's disease and adapting to crutches to help her get around, Michelle knew the family needed another small dog.

"I wanted a smaller dog, not one that jumped," she said, referencing her crutches.

"She instantly fell in love with our children," Michelle said of the dachshund/ terrier mix named 'Cola' at the shelter. "You could see she was a perfect fit for my children."

The mother of two recalled how the dog jumped into her son's arms and bonded with the family instantly.

"I knew we had to have her," Michelle said. Upon adoption the family renamed 'Cola,' Melody.

With a husband who travels for work and her children both in school, Michelle shared that the dog also serves as a companion for her while alone during the day. In addition to the Parkinson's, Michelle also began struggling with a seizure disorder. Unable to know when her seizures are going to come on, she spends much of her time at home, with Melody.

Shortly after adopting Melody, Michelle was cleaning up the kitchen when her pint-sized companion began acting up. Pulling on her owner's pant leg, pacing between the kitchen and the living room. Eventually, Melody was able to coax Michelle into a living room chair.

Michelle recounted, that once she was seated, Melody positioned herself in her owner's lap with her paws resting on her chest.

"It was if she was saying, you're not going anywhere," she said.

Within moments, Michelle suffered a seizure in the safety of that chair in the living room.

"She stays with me until I recover," the owner said, "and am able to get up."

Since that day, Melody has guided Michelle through multiple seizures. Always giving her apt warning and placing her safely before their onset.

"She's just wonderful, you couldn't ask for a better dog," she said.

While, Melody was adopted to help her son recover from the loss of their previous dog, she is described as her daughter Kasie's dog. Kasie, a 2009 graduate of Escalon High School, will be leaving for college in Sacramento late this summer.

When her daughter leaves, Michelle fully expects she will take Melody with her. It is now her hope that before Melody leaves with Kasie the family will be able to find another special dog to have as her companion.

"This is incredibly," Shelter volunteer, Betsie Corwin shared.

"Some of these dogs have hidden talents that we didn't even know about," Corwin said of her experience at the shelter in the past five years. "I think this is the first time we've had one with quite a remarkable story. Basically it's a service dog."

"Mel's pretty special," Michelle said, choking back tears. "I hope we are able to find another dog before they leave. Just for the mere fact that maybe this little dog can learn a little bit from Mel."

"It's an honor to have a dog that's so special," Kasie said of her pint-sized pet. "I've never had a dog quite like her. I'd never give her up."