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COLUMBIA, Ill. - "If I did not have Petey, I don't know how I would live my life."

Petey is Violette Nast's hard-working service dog. The nine-year-old black Labrador retriever can empty a dryer full of clothes into a basket, drag the basket to the bedroom, fetch medicine, close doors, and even pick up a coin from the floor. Then there was the time this year when Petey called 911 after Nast had an asthma attack and passed out.

"I have a medic alert and there is a main box which has a button on top and he is trained to hit that button," said Nast.

The specially trained dog can even sniff out diabetes.

"As we all know, Labradors have such great noses," said Nast, "so he can sense the chemical change and when it's my diabetes he just puts his head in my lap and I know with his position that I'm headed for a blood sugar problem."

Life has repeatedly put roadblocks and hurdles in front of Violette Nast. She survived a sexual assault. Her left leg was amputated. Nast lives in constant pain with fibromyalgia, diabetes, and asthma.

Rock bottom became Nast's foundation as a church volunteer and motivational speaker.

"Stuff happens and the good Lord turned me around and said 'hey, now you're going to help other people.'"

Others are returning the favor, all because of Petey. The dog's herniated disk and other health issues means it's getting harder for him to care for Nast. It's time for a new service dog with the cost for purchase and training at $9,000. Multiple Metro East communities have stepped up to raise nearly $7,000. The VFW in Collinsville, St. Paul's United Christian Church in Columbia, and a Waterloo, Illinois Applebees Restaurant are among the local groups holding fundraisers.

"The other guests were letting me know she needed some help," said Judy Zanti, general manager of Applebees. "She never asked. I had to contact her and find out what we could do to help. We did a 'dining to donate.'"

Applebees raised $900. Nast's church, St. Paul United Christian, has co-sponsored several fundraisers, including lemonade stands and car washes.

"People in Waterloo are assisting. People in Columbia," said Pastor Bob Goddard. "She's having a trivia night in Collinsville later this fall. It's people throughout the metro east who have gotten to know Violette over the years because of the way she's helped other people out. She's just been a part of so many people's lives throughout the years, that now Violette needs some help and everyone is willing and excited about stepping up and helping her."

So far, nearly $7,000 has been raised for the new service dog. The yellow lab puppy is already being trained in North Carolina. Part of Petey's retirement will be showing the young pup how it's done. The support Nast has received is not totally surprising. She believes the help you give is the help you get.

"Somebody needs a hand and I see that, I try to help out," said Nast. "So I kind of feel like it's karma."

If you'd like to donate to the service dog fund, contact St. Paul's United Christian Church in Columbia, Illinois, 618-281-5102.

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