BULLET: A Special AKC Recognized Senior Golden Hero
lt all began in the spring of 2002, the following article (detailing Bullet & Pam SIca's CNN TV appearance) part of the nationwide publicity that this story generated.

Baby's Best Friend: Alert Pooch Saves Infant  
CNN Access, May 17, 2002

A Special Bond - Photo by Alejandra VillaA family's faithful companion, Bullet the aging Golden Retriever, turned out to be a hero when he seemed to know Pamela Sica's baby was gasping for breath. He went to summon Sica and she took him seriously. Doctors discovered the baby had pneumonia in both lungs. Sica appeared on CNN early Friday to talk to anchor Jack Cafferty about the dog's life-saving feat and her baby's miraculous recovery.

CAFFERTY: Pam, welcome. It's nice to have you on the program. Tell us how Bullet was acting that fateful morning when, as we said, he saved your son's life. What did he do to alert you?

SICA: I was in the kitchen making the bottle. He (Bullet) was in the bedroom with my son. (My husband) went into the shower. Bullet was still lying down. And I guess when the baby was making the sounds, he came running down the hallway into the kitchen.

And he kept barking, and I was still making the bottle. And I asked him if he wanted to go out, and he kept barking and turning around and going into the hallway. Then I finally went into the bedroom, and that's where I found my son. And he had his head back, and he was gasping for air. With that, he was turning a shade of red too, like, purple to blue.

And I screamed for my husband. He came out of the shower. And with that, he turned the baby upside down, he thought that I fed him. So he thought he was choking. So he hit him a couple of times on the back. And it didn't do anything, and he turned him around and started to rub his chest and do CPR. I called 911. They were there within minutes, and the EMS was here. And by then, with Troy still doing CPR, the baby came around, and from there, the paramedics and the ambulance took him to Brookhaven Hospital, where they stabilized him. And then he went into another episode where they stabilized him.

CAFFERTY: Did you have any idea the baby had pneumonia at this point? You didn't know, did you?

SICA: No, I didn't know what it was. I actually thought he had apnea or SIDS.

Bullet poses with baby Troy during a family photo.

CAFFERTY: Yes, right, sleep apnea?

SICA: Yes, I had no idea what it was. Nobody really knew until they brought him into Stony Brook Hospital, where they later did some tests and found out that he had double pneumonia and ASD, a hole in his heart.

CAFFERTY: Are you convinced the dog saved the child's life? You said your husband's in the shower, you were in the kitchen, and the baby stopped breathing. Had it not been for Bullet, are you convinced you could have lost the child right then?

Bullet relaxes Friday in the family home.

SICA: Yes, I am. Because I would have been dilly-dallying, putting stuff in the dishwasher.

CAFFERTY: Sure, it's 4:30 in the morning. You're doing your chores and stuff. There's no way you're going to hear the baby stop breathing or start having trouble, right? What was it, do you suppose, about the dog that made him do this? I mean, there are mysteries surrounding animals that I guess none of us are able to explain completely. But they know things that we simply don't know, don't they?

SICA: Yes. He knew it was his baby. He knew it belonged to me, and he was protecting his baby.

CAFFERTY: Take us back a few years. I mentioned the dog was lucky to be alive. A few years ago, the veterinarian discovered a tumor on Bullet's liver, and you had to borrow a bunch of money to have the dog operated on. Tell me a little about that and the fact that some people thought you were crazy to spend this kind of money to save a dog's life.

Bullet's life-saving feat made the front page of a local newspaper.

SICA: We took him for his regular checkup, and the vet found that he had an irregular heartbeat. From there, they ran tests and they did blood work. And they found that his liver enzymes were elevated from there. And from there, they did a sonogram, and they found like a pea-sized tumor in the liver. But they were afraid to operate just then, because they didn't know if his heart could take the anesthesia. So we waited until September, and by then, they did another ultrasound, and the tumor grew to the size of a softball. And they told me that it's a situation where you have to decide because he is you know 12- or 13-years-old -- I forgot at the time -- you have to make that decision, and I didn't know what to do. I said he's been a part of my life for all these years, and there's no way I was going just to let him go.

CAFFERTY: So you borrowed the $5,000, got the surgery done. I can't tell you what a story it is. I have got dogs and cats in my house. I've had them all my life. I have feelings for animals that exceed the ones I have for a lot of the people I've encountered along the way. A story like this just affirms that I'm right.  ... What about a special reward? Does Bullet get a special treat now, besides a perpetual nap that it looks like he's taking there? He gets steak dinners and chicken, right? Anything he wants.

SICA: He did anyway. He was my first baby, right?

CAFFERTY: Yes, really.

Of course, we knew that Golden Bullet's actions merited AKC's ACE Exemplary Companion Award—the winner receiving a engraved silver collar medallion and $1,000 cash award. We contacted Pam Sica to ask about making this nomination and were honored to be provided with this opportunity. The Human-Canine Bond, and the Human-Golden Bond in particular, is one that continues to be underestimated; yet, it is through stories such as this one that we can begin to understand its true force. Here is our nomination essay:

A Life-Saving Bullet: ACE Award Nomination (by Rochelle Lesser)
A Life-Saving Bullet? Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but not so in this case, as it was only by the frantic actions of a 15-year-old Golden Retriever named Bullet that his human baby brother is alive today. Bullet is Pam Sica’s first baby—a Golden soul who has nursed his mom through many life crises. But, those efforts noted in the telling of this harrowing story, clearly demonstrate that he is truly an angel in disguise. Bullet and his Baby

On that fateful May 1, 2002 morning, Dad was showering and Bullet was sleeping quietly by the 3-week-old baby in the master bedroom as Mom [Pam Sica] left for the kitchen to warm a bottle. Suddenly, Bullet began barking and bounded down the hallway into the kitchen. Urgently, he continued to bark as Pam fussed with the bottle. She asked if he wanted to go out, but Bullet just kept barking, then bouncing up on his front legs. Rare behavior for this mellow old guy who “acts more like a rug these days,” according to Pam, she then proceeded toward the bathroom to say something to her showering husband. At that point, Bullet literally went wild, running back and forth uncontrollably between the kitchen and the bedroom. Finally following him to the bedroom, Pam found that her infant was blue—with head thrown back and gurgling sounds coming from his throat.

Pam screamed for her husband who immediately began CPR, while she called 911. “The paramedics told us that, if we had found Troy 10 seconds later, something terrible could have happened,” Sica said. “Bullet saved his life.” “A few seconds could have made a huge difference,” said Paolo Coppola, who heads the Emergency Department at Brookhaven Memorial, adding that major brain damage can occur in just four minutes. “The longer the baby goes without air, the more dangerous it is.” Troy Joseph was taken to Brookhaven Hospital, where they stabilized him. Released two weeks later, it was determined that he had double pneumonia and Ventricular Septal Defect, a condition marked by a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart.

If fate hadn’t taken some special turns, neither Troy nor Bullet would have been in the Sica’s home the day of this emergency. When Pam got pregnant at age 42, she and her husband had long given up their 10-year struggle to have a child. Making it through a complicated pregnancy, everyone believed it a miracle when Troy Joseph was delivered healthy on April 10th. Likewise, Bullet almost didn’t make it to May. Two years ago a tumor was found on his liver, and many friends and family members advised Pam to euthanize him. “I said he’s been a part of my life for all these years, and there’s no way I was just going to let him go.” A referral from Bullet’s long-trusted veterinarian was provided to a veterinary cardiologist, and after taking out a $5,000 loan, surgery was successfully performed. Later, Bullet was found to have a testicular tumor, which was also removed, and currently Bullet has an enlarged heart that requires daily medication and monthly doctor visits. Yet, Pam has never hesitated to do right by her first child (of the Golden persuasion), which has certainly saved her infant’s life.

Even before meeting his new baby brother, Bullet was excited about the arrival. A week before Mom and baby returned home from the hospital, a blanket from the baby’s bassinet was taken home to Bullet. Dad said he began running around with glee, dragging the blanket with him everywhere he went, and using it to sleep with at night. [You can see this blanket draped over Bullet’s paw in the above photo.] Finally, when Pam and Troy Joseph came home, Bullet was ecstatic. He ran right for the baby—seeming to understand that this was the newest member of the family. And, now, while Bullet remains less than thrilled about repeatedly being awakened by the baby’s nighttime cries at feeding time, he is quick to alert to the baby’s cries. At that point, he looks to Pam to be sure that she, too, has awakened and is aware of the baby’s need for assistance. Then, softly groaning, he ventures back to sleep until the next feeding.

So one can see that . . . . . Pam so perfectly responded to CNN’s Jack Cafferty when he queried—“Sure, it’s 4:30 in the morning. You’re doing your chores and stuff. There’s no way you’re going to hear the baby stop breathing or start having trouble, right? What was it, do you suppose, about the dog that made him do this? I mean, there are mysteries surrounding animals that I guess none of us are able to explain completely. But they know things that we simply don’t know, don’t they?”

And what was her response, you ask?—“Yes. He knew it was his baby. He knew it belonged to me, and he was protecting his baby.”

Bullet an Exemplary Companion Award Winner

How fitting it is that one of baby Troy's first words was "doggie" as you will hear in this video clip of two special brothers.

We are so proud to announce that our guy Bullet won this prestigious award in the Exemplary Companion category. When Pam shared this with us, we also learned that Bullet had performed another special deed. Golden Hero Bullet with his Mom and Baby Brother!

The poor guy had recently come in from the yard, blood covering his nose. He eventually led Mom out to the culprit in the back shed, a very young and starving kitty mother protecting her newly born kittens. Well, now Pam is feeding the family and will be providing them with much needed veterinary care as well as having the mother spayed.

Tana and BulletThe honorees received their engraved silver collar medallions and $1,000 cash awards at a presentation ceremony at the Orlando AKC National Invitational Championship on December 11, 2002. Visit the AKC page here to see a detailing of Bullet's story.  Each dog was also involved in a local presentation ceremony. Bullet's took place on Saturday September 28, 2002, at the Suffolk County Kennel Club show.

Beth Gutbrod, who met Pam and Bullet at a previous Golden spring match, was in attendance at this special event. She volunteered to get some digital photos so that we would be able to share some in the experience. Initially, we think Bullet was quite taken by Beth's new 8-month-old Tana, whom he met at the spring match. Pam told Beth that Bullet looked just like her Tana at the same age.

At the Suffolk County Kennel Club show ceremony (according to Beth), Pam was a very nervous and teary Mom. Of course, she's smiling and looking composed in the photos below as she walks up to receive her award, and then poses with various family members and AKC officials. And, just look at this grand old guy's gorgeous smiling face. Boy, is he something!


A Sad Update
Although Bullet went on to celebrate his 16th birthday on April 1, 2003, his cancer had returned in the fall of 2002 and time was slowing down for this special boy. Amazingly, though, through alternative herbal treatment, Bullet was given almost an entire year more to bond with his infant brother. But, sadly, on August 1, 2003, Bullet lost his fight and left for The Bridge. His spirit will always be celebrated here at the Land of PureGold as he serves to inspire us all.

On November 22, 2004, Mike Hacker wrote to Newsday Pet Columnist, Denise Flaim, with this question: A recent article of yours included a photo of Bullet and the baby he saved. Is Bullet still with us? This was her reply: Mike, unfortunately, no. Pam Sica of Bellport, Bullet's owner, says the Golden Retriever died in August at the ripe old age of 16. Bullet's cancer, which had gone into remission, reappeared in 2002, the same year he barked frantically to alert Sica that her newborn son had stopped breathing. Toward the end, Sica considered euthanizing Bullet, but couldn't. "He saved my son's life," she says. "How could I take his?" She was glad she listened to her instinct. One early morning, Bullet passed away in her arms, she says. "That is the way I wanted it.  . . . . .   Here is a wonderful slide show to celebrate Bullet's memory.