Girl With Diabetes Given New Service Dog After Her Beloved Sidekick Was Shot to Death

Hannah Westmoreland was given a new service dog after hers was fatally shot at her home.
Hannah Westmoreland with her mother, Tina, and service dog Journey, left. Joey, right, is Hannah's new pup.Tina Westmoreland

A Texas girl with diabetes lost her best four-legged friend and protector when someone shot to death Journey, her sweet golden retriever, in the yard of her home.

A Texas girl with diabetes lost her best four-legged friend and protector when someone shot to death Journey, her sweet golden retriever, in the yard of her home.

Bereft, 15-year-old Hannah Westmoreland couldn't understand why someone would do such a thing. And she didn't think she'd ever have another service dog that could fill Journey's paws.

But thanks to the kindness of a generous stranger, Hannah now has a 3-month-old Labradoodle named Joey, a goofy, rambunctious and devoted bundle of black fur. And Hannah has fallen in love all over again.

"She is a momma hen," Hannah's mother, Tina, told "She just takes good care of him. He's just a puppy, so it's house-training and shots and puppy cries right now."

Joey arrived courtesy of Amy Novacek and her husband, former Dallas Cowboy tight end Jay Novacek. Amy, too, has a service dog, which she got after being injured in a horrific car crash.

The couple heard about Hannah's loss through local media coverage of Journey's fatal shooting. The person who pulled the trigger has never been caught, despite extensive efforts, and a reward to find information leading to the perpetrator's arrest.

Tina will never forget that day in January. Hannah was home sick, and her mother was busy taking care of her. Tina recalls opening the door to let Journey and the family's small mutt, Max, outside. The home has a small, fenced-in back yard where the dogs do their business, Tina said.

But Tina was distracted that day and when she went to let the dogs back in about 25 minutes later, the backyard gate was open and the pups were gone. She walked around the house and found Journey lying in the front yard. "I didn't realize there was anything wrong with him," she said.

She went inside to call an emergency veterinarian when she and her father couldn't get Journey to stand. The vet advised her to bring the dog to his office. When they picked up the golden retriever, they saw blood. Tina's dad, who's a hunter, recognized the bullet wound. "My dad was like, 'Oh my God, he's been shot.'''

They drove an agonizing 45 minutes to the vet, who rushed Journey into surgery. He died as the animal care staff began working on him.

"Oh my gosh, it was awful," Tina said. "It was awful for all of us, but it was worse for Hannah."

Tina said the family didn't immediately think about finding a replacement. "We were focused on trying to find who did it," she said.

But then the Novaceks stepped forward and offered a puppy from their 48 Labradoodles Breeding Program. 

For Hannah, it was love at first sight, her mother said.

"She loves him. She just loves him," Tina said.

Joey has a lot of schooling in front of him. He will undergo months of training to recognize the smell Hannah's body gives off if her blood sugar is too high or too low. "It stinks to them," Tina said of the chemicals that are released when blood levels widely fluctuate.

Eventually, Joey will learn to nudge Hannah with his nose when she's in danger, just as Joey did. 

Hannah was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 8. She's been giving herself insulin shots since was 9.

She's never let it interfere with her life. She's an active high school student. She's on the varsity cheer team, and she's currently attending cheer camp, getting ready to try out for next year's squad. 

At night, when she comes home, she spends a lot of time playing with Joey. The puppy hasn't had all of his shots yet, and therefore can't go outside. He has energy to burn and barks his little head off, Tina said. 

But her family is glad indeed to have him around.

"Hannah was very lucky to have Journey," her mother said. "And she's even more lucky to have Joey."