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Austin And Sugar, Helping Each Other Through Life

Austin Varnum has spent more time in hospitals than he cares to remember. He survived a rare brain tumor that left him blind in one eye when he was seven years old and a stroke that paralyzed his left side.Health issues confine him to a wheelchair, but they can't keep him down. Varnum loves horses, baseball games, traveling, bowling, and 5-k's."I did that in the rain," he said.With him every step of the way a constant companion that changed his life."Yeah, she's more than a best friend, she treats me like I'm her puppy," Austin said. "That's what she treats me like."This Pit Bull/Chocolate Lab mix has had a tough life, too.{} Her first owner named her Sugar, but neglected her and continuously bred her for puppies. Then she ended up in the pound.{} When Sugar was 24 hours away from being put down, she was rescued by a foster family.{} But being part Pit Bull, no one wanted her.Then after a year and a half Austin and his father, Richard Varnum, came calling."I think she was just waiting around for the right person before she would show her true personality," said Alyssa Cable.Richard hired Cable, a third year vet student at OSU, to train Sugar to be a service dog.{} She says the bond with Austin was immediate."I'd call her over and work a little bit, then she'd have to go back and check to make sure that he was okay before she'd come back and work with me again," Cable said.Austin's condition damaged the part of his brain that deals with behavior.{} Richard says before Austin had Sugar, an episode of hurting himself could last an hour. But Sugar now senses when Austin's mood is changing and starts licking his face.Now his episodes don't last more than a minute or two."When I get a kiss from her it makes my heart have warm fuzzies," Austin said.Sugar even goes with Austin to the hospital. During overnight stays, she sleeps with him in the hospital bed."Sugar will hop in bed with me, then when the nurse walks in the door, she'll hop out," Austin said. "Then after the nurse draws my blood, she hops back in."Austin says someone special made sure Sugar came into his life - his first best friend and grandfather Daddy Don."I miss him so much I don't know what to do," Austin said.Don Shearer died three and a half years ago.{} It's about the same time Austin's new best friend Sugar was born."But I know my grandpa is in this dog and my grandpa sent me this dog for a reason, Austin said. "That's why I know."Need proof? It's Sugar's reaction as Austin grieves the loss of Daddy Don. As Austin puts his head in his hands to cry, Sugar looks up and immediately walks to him.But there's more.{} It's further proof these two were mean to be together forever.{} Daddy Don, throughout his entire life, had only one name for every dog he owned.That name?Sugar."Sugar," Austin says as his best friend walks up and licks his face. "I love you, too."

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