Jason and Debbie McCall with their
seventeen-month-old Golden Retreiver Oliver.
Oliver saved Jason's life on a camping trip,
waking him up when the carbon dioxide detector
in McCall's camper went off. Photo by Daryl
Sullivan/The Daily Times
friend for life: He saved one By Rick Laney, The Daily Times Staff, June 22, 2007
Oliver, an 18-month-old golden retriever, saved Jason
McCall’s life when carbon monoxide filled his camper June 9.
McCall had a busy weekend planned two weeks ago. He attended
his sister-in-law’s birthday celebration, went to a
motorcycle race and then on a camping trip to Blountville.
McCall, a 1992 graduate of William Blount High School, says
he doesn’t go camping as much as he would like to, and was
looking forward to using his camper for the first time since
having a new generator installed.
After attending the motorcycle race, McCall set up camp and
settled in for the evening in his 29-foot “Victory Lane”
“I work nights for the United States Postal Service,” McCall
said. “So I’m used to sleeping through anything — phones can
ring, the neighbors can mow their yards, nothing really
wakes me up.
“I turned on the air conditioning and went to sleep around
10:30 that night. A little while later, I thought I heard
something, but I didn’t really wake up.
“Then Oliver jumped up on the bed and started licking my
face and pushing at me. As soon as I got awake, I could hear
an alarm going off.
“I thought it was the smoke detector, but there wasn’t any
smoke — so I figured it was the carbon monoxide detector.”
McCall turned off the generator, took the dog and exited the
camper quickly. After airing out the camper he went back to
“I didn’t really think too much about it in the middle of
the night,” McCall said, “but while I was driving home on
Sunday it really hit me. I got to thinking about how that
could have turned out.
“I know what would have happened if Oliver didn’t wake me
up. I was camping off by myself, so no one else would have
heard the alarm or even known I was there until the next
day. What Oliver did was pretty amazing.”
The exhaust on the new generator had not been installed
properly, according to McCall, allowing carbon monoxide to
fill his camper while he slept.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas.
Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic
fumes, carbon monoxide can kill people before they are aware
of its presence. At lower levels of exposure, it causes mild
effects that are often mistaken for the flu. At high levels,
it can kill in minutes.
McCall said Oliver was born on Christmas Day 2005. He named
him after Oliver, played by Eddie Albert, on the 1960s
television show “Green Acres.”
“I’ve been married to my wife, Debbie, for 11 years,” McCall
said, “but we have not been able to have children. I know it sounds crazy, but in some ways Oliver is like our
“I like animals, but I’ve never really been an animal-rights
person — but lately, I’ve been treating Oliver pretty
Grizzly scare By Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily
News-Miner, May 24, 2007
Todd Fitzgerald has heard bears “woof” and clack their jaws
before, but he had never heard one roar until Sunday night.
It’s not something he ever wants to hear again, especially
given what happened immediately afterward. Fitzgerald was
riding his new mountain bike on a trail near his house in
the Herning Hills subdivision, about a mile off Chena Hot
Springs Road at 5.5 Mile, at about 11 p.m. Sunday night when
he heard a loud cracking noise, like a stick breaking, in
the woods to his right.
“I didn’t even look,” said Fitzgerald, who thought it was
probably a moose running through the woods. “I was focused
on the trail and I was already almost by it.” He did notice his golden retriever,
Kiska, who running ahead of him, glance into the woods,
however. But she didn’t express much interest and kept
going. What happened next was something that Fitzgerald will
“About 70 feet down the trail in front of me, a sow (grizzly
bear) stood up five feet off the trail and gave a really
loud roar,” he said. “I’ve never heard anything like it.
I’ve heard them woof and click their jaws but I’ve never
heard them roar like that. “It was like something you see a
trained bear on TV do,” he said .
The bear was what Fitzgerald, an experienced hunter,
described as “an average Interior grizzly.” He estimated it
between 6 and 7 feet tall. The sight and sound stopped
Fitzgerald in his tracks. “I hit the brakes and dumped my
bike and took off running the other way,” he said, pointing
out his skid marks in the dirt on Wednesday night as he
revisited the scene with a reporter and photographer, this
time with a loaded shotgun slung over his shoulder.
Almost immediately, Fitzgerald figured that he had ridden
between a sow and its cub. The sow was standing on the left
side of the trail and the cub was probably the source of the
noise that he had heard on the right side of the trail.
“As soon as I saw the bear stand up, I immediately tied that
together as a sow and a cub,” he said. “The only thing in my
mind was, ‘I gotta leave and get out of here.’ “
While Fitzgerald knows better than to run from a grizzly
bear — experts say you should back away slowly and give the
bear space — the 46-year-old electrician for Golden Valley
Electrical Association ran for all he was worth.
“I didn’t do a lot of thinking in that split second,” he
confided. “I know I did all the wrong things but I was not
going to back away slowly.”
While Fitzgerald turned and ran the other way, Kiska did the
opposite by confronting the bear.
“I could hear my dog going crazy, barking at the bear,” said
At first, it didn’t seem like his legs were working,
Fitzgerald said. When he finally was able to get moving,
Fitzgerald tripped and did a faceplant after 10 feet.
But he could still hear Kiska barking.
“I thought, ‘This is good; the dog’s doing his job’ and I
kept running as fast as I could,” Fitzgerald said.
As he ran, Fitzgerald formulated a plan. He knew there was
an old rope swing hanging from a tree about 100 feet up the
hill he was sprinting. If he could reach that, he knew he
could climb up it.
“That was my first exit plan,” Fitzgerald said.
But then Kiska stopped barking and the woods grew silent.
“I thought, ‘Something’s changed; this is bad,” said
He was still about 25 feet from the rope swing when
Fitzgerald glanced over his shoulder to see what was
“The bear was bounding up the trail after me,” he said, eyes
wide as he acted out the scene three days later. “It was a
whole different wave of emotion that washed over me.
“I thought, ‘This is going to happen and this is going to
Fitzgerald was just about to the rope swing when he glanced
over his shoulder again. The bear had stopped and was
standing on all fours in the trail about 100 feet away,
looking at Fitzgerald.
“My neighbor’s house was only 100 yards up the hill and I
said, ‘I’m going to get to his house,’” said Fitzgerald.
Once there, he tried to catch his breath.
“I’ve never been that out of breath,” said Fitzgerald, a
lean, fit guy who likes to bike and ski. “It felt like my
lungs were going to bleed.”
He listened for any noise that might indicate the bear was
following him but heard nothing so he walked back to his
house. He could hear Kiska barking in the driveway before he
The dog acted uncharacteristically timid but was otherwise
fine, said Fitzgerald. Even 45 minutes after the incident,
when Fitzgerald and his neighbor, Craig Schumacher, went to
retrieve Fitzgerald’s new bike armed with shotguns, Kiska
stuck close by.
“You had to sort of push her along,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald’s close encounter with a grizzly came on the
heels of a grizzly sighting farther out Chena Hot Springs
Road earlier the same evening. A lone grizzly was spotted at
a house on the south side of the road around 8.1 Mile on
Sunday at around 8 p.m. Grizzly tracks were also reported in
a yard about a mile off road at 10.5 Mile the night before.
Wildlife biologist Don Young with the Alaska Department of
Fish and Game isn’t sure what to make of the different
sightings but he suspects they represent different bears.
There was a sow grizzly and cub reported at the end of Peede
Road in late April and that’s less than five miles from
where Fitzgerald lives, he noted.
There was also a report of a lone grizzly bear in the same
vicinity — near the Chena River on Nordale Road — on Tuesday
night, said Young.
Whatever the case may be, residents need to be bear aware,
said Young. Anything that might attract a bear — garbage,
dog food, charcoal grills, bird feeders, etc. — should be
thrown away or secured where bears can’t get at it, he said.
Though he never actually saw another bear, Fitzgerald is
convinced he came between a sow and her cub.
“Why wouldn’t that bear take one step and disappear (if it
didn’t have a cub)?” said Fitzgerald.
As for Kiska, it marks the second time the friendly,
tail-wagging, curly-haired retriever has played the part of
hero. A few years ago Fitzgerald’s son and some friends were
snowboarding in the yard when a moose walked into the
driveway and charged the three boys, all of whom still had
their feet strapped into their snowboards. Just as the moose
was about to stomp one of the boys who was on the ground, a
barking Kiska appeared and held the moose at bay, even as
the moose was pawing at him, before it wandered off without
doing any harm. A neighbor witnessed the whole thing,
Fitzgerald credits Kiska with saving his life this time.
“If my dog had not tied up that bear for the few seconds, I
don’t know what would have happened,” said Fitzgerald. “I
think the dog saved my life.”
2007 Purina Animal Hall of Fame Inductee: Jango Jango, the Unger family
dog, normally splits her time between greeting customers at
the family pet grooming business, and working as a therapy
dog visiting the elderly in Trail, BC. But in the early
hours of January 22, 2006, this brave Golden Retriever also
took on the role of family saviour. Darrell's wife Christine
was out for the evening, and so Darrell tucked four-year-old
Koby into bed and settled down to relax in front of the
Darrell was awakened from a deep sleep on the
couch at around 12:30 a.m. to ten year-old Jango's incessant
barking. This was completely out of character, so Darrell
immediately knew something was seriously wrong. Within
seconds Darrell realized the house was filled with dark
smoke, and ran as fast as he could to get the phone and his
son's room, yelling for Koby to wake up. When he made it
into the bedroom, he realized Koby was unconscious and
Darrell himself was starting to fade.
Koby out of his bunk bed and carried him outside, all with
the sound and encouragement of Jango's constant barking
directing Darrell, with Koby in arms, to safety. As Darrell
and Koby burst outside, Constable Derek Gallon happened to
be driving by and radioed for the fire department. The
officer's own life was put in danger when he collapsed 30
feet into the house, attempting to bring back Darrell, who
made a second trip into the blaze to rescue the family's two
kittens. Thankfully the kittens were rescued by the fire
department, and Darrell, Koby and Constable Gallon treated
for smoke inhalation. Everyone has since recovered
physically from the incident and are all doing well.
The Unger family lost virtually everything in the
devastating fire; but they feel they owe the fact that they
didn't lose their family to the good senses of Jango, for
which they will be forever grateful.
Christine own the Pet Needs Plus Grooming and Specialty
Pet Supplies store in Trail, and Jango, affectionately
called ‘Baby Love' by an ever-doting Koby, is the friendly
greeter at the front of the store. She is well-known and
well-loved in the community.
Proudly displayed on the
wall of Darrell and Christine's store is a picture of Jango
with the word “hero” written on it. But to the family she is
more than a hero, she is their guardian angel.
Dogs, cat honoured for heroism
By Rick Eglinton, Toronto Star, May
Another of the honoured pets was Jango, a Trail, B.C.,
golden retriever, who greets customers at her family’s pet
grooming business and provides pet therapy to the elderly.
Last year in January, Darrell Unger woke up, a little
annoyed, to Jango’s incessant barking. But a second later he
remembered Jango doesn’t normally bark and realized his
house was filling with smoke.
Unger raced to his
son’s room to find that Koby, who was four at the time, was
unconscious. He picked up the boy and navigated his way
through the smoke-filled house by following Jango’s barking.
Once safely outside, Unger went back into the house
to get the two family kittens. Const. Derek Gallon, who
happened to be driving by and radioed the fire department,
followed Unger inside and found him passed out.
Everyone was treated for smoke inhalation and even the two
kittens were rescued.
“Me and my husband have three
heroes,” said Christine Unger, who wasn’t home that fateful
evening. “Jango is my first hero. My husband ... he saved
our son’s life ... and Const. Gallon saved my husband’s
Darrell Unger said that ever since the fire,
which destroyed everything in the house, Jango has put on
five or 10 pounds because there is no way he can deny his
hero any treats. There was barely a dry eye in the crowd as
everyone watched five-year-old Koby place the medal of
honour on his pal, whom he now calls “babylove.”
Wonder dog is all golden: Woman claims pet pooch gave her
By Scott Goss, Cecil Whig, March 27, 2007
Debbie Parkhurst and her dog Toby, the
2-year-old golden retriever who she claims saved
her life by performing a doggy version of the
Heimlich, to dislodge a piece of apple stuck in
A Calvert woman claims her 2-year-old golden retriever
saved her life Friday by giving her the canine version of
the Heimlich maneuver. “The doctor said I probably wouldn’t
be here without Toby,” said Debbie Parkhurst, 45, a jewelry
artist who lives near Rising Sun High School with her
husband, Kevin, and their two dogs. “I keep looking at him
and saying ‘You’re amazing.’”
Parkhurst said she was home alone with the dogs Friday
afternoon when she decided to snack on an apple. Suddenly,
she said, a chunk of the fruit became wedged in her
windpipe. “It was lodged pretty tight because I couldn’t
breathe,” she said. “I tried to do the thing where you lean
over a chair and give yourself the Heimlich, but it didn’t
Parkhurst said she then began beating her chest, an action
that might have attracted Toby’s attention. “The next think
I know, Toby’s up on his hind feet and he’s got his front
paws on my shoulders,” she recalled. “He pushed me to the
ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and
down on my chest.”
Toby’s jumping apparently managed to dislodge the apple from
Parkhurst’s windpipe. “As soon as I started breathing, he
stopped and began licking my face, as if to keep me from
passing out,” she said. A friend soon arrived and, after
witnessing the canine rescue, drove Parkhurst to the
“I, literally, have pawprint-shaped bruises on my chest,”
Parkhurst said. “I’m still a little hoarse, but otherwise,
At first, Parkhurst thought Toby was simply trying to play.
Now she believes the golden retriever that she and her
husband rescued from a Dumpster knew exactly what he was
doing. “I know it sounds a little weird, but I think he had
a sense of what was happening,” Parkhurst said Monday. “Of
all the dogs in the world, I never would have expected this
goofy one here to know the Heimlich.”
As strange as Parkhurst’s story might sound, Toby’s actions
actually followed the emergency measures recommended for
choking victims by the American Heart Association and the
American Red Cross. Both agencies recommend first aid
responders use a series of five back blows followed by a
series of five abdominal thrusts, otherwise known as the
“five and five.”
“I have no idea where he learned it from,” Parkhurst said.
“But can tell you that I’m going to peel and mash my apples
from now on.”
Breast cancer led to self-discovery
By Patricia Norris, The Republican, November 1, 2006
GRANBY - Each night when Nancy A. Engelbrecht lay down to
sleep, her lumbering golden retriever would drop his paw on her right breast.
What's the matter, Ben? Do you want to go out? But Ben
would not stop. "After about a month of this, I investigated. I was starting to
feel sore there and that is when I found the lump," she said. Engelbrecht, a
44-year-old radiation therapist at the Sister Caritas Cancer Center at Mercy
Medical Center in Springfield, knew the warning signs of breast cancer. Now she
was living them.
A biopsy confirmed Engelbrecht's worst
fear but it also led her on a fortuitous path of self-discovery and activism.
Now Engelbrecht helps patients by sharing her experience and encourages others
who are cancer-free to do self-breast exams as she believes Ben's paw was
prodding her to do all along. "I don't really care who knows I have cancer," she
The dog, one of Engelbrecht's seven, stopped pawing
at her once the lumpectomy removed her tumor. "I was meant to go through
everything I am going through," said Engelbrecht, her hair slowly growing back
after several rounds of chemotherapy. "I can't quite explain it." Although
Engelbrecht, a married mother of two, does not make light of her cancer, she has
made peace with it.
The Granby woman who was used to
helping others obliterate cancer cells with radiation for countless patients for
more than a decade, nearly lost her breath when her oncologist said, "cancer."
Her brain scurried down a list of survival odds she knew well but had up until
now applied them to other people's life spans. "I wanted to be able to see my
two daughters, 16 and 12 grow up," she said. "But I knew cancers in young women
are very aggressive. I was petrified and for about a week I was paralyzed."
Engelbrecht said she prayed with her doctor Steve Allen, who
asked God to work through him and help Engelbrecht heal. "I felt a wave of peace
wash over me," Engelbrecht said.
working, at first afraid to show patients her bald head because she did not want
to scare them. But a wig, when she was without her own voluminous blonde hair,
did not feel right either. So Engelbrecht donned a baseball cap and walked out
into the waiting room to call her patients. "When I saw her I said, 'Oh no, not
you too,'" said Rosemary Landino, a Brimfield patient who became a friend.
But Engelbrecht's bald head had a therapeutic effect. Wearing
cancer on her sleeves enabled other patients to speak freely about their fears
and hopes. "They feel like I know their scary feelings," she said.
Engelbrecht knows the effects of chemotherapy can
make you think you left the phone in the refrigerator. She knows it actually
hurts when your hair falls out in clumps from your scalp. But sometimes
Engelbrecht became the student.
Patients gave her tips on
what to eat or drink when feeling nauseous, for example. They made her cards and
one patient decorated an exam gown in super woman motif. "I don't feel I am
cured," Engelbrecht said now that chemotherapy and radiation are over. "But I
know I have done everything that I need to do." She relies on her faith and the
tiny messages like Ben's persistence that come with it, she said.
By all medical accounts her cancer should have spread to her
lymph nodes but they didn't. "There are no coincidences," she said.
saves family of three from Gilroy fire
Bay City News Service, December 21, 2006
A family dog is being hailed as a heroine today after she alerted her owner
that a neighbor's house was on fire, saving the family from certain death,
Gilroy Fire Department Division Chief Clay Bentson said.
Around 1:40 a.m.
the neighbor awoke to his golden retriever, Meg, frantically barking. Thinking
the dog needed a walk, the man took her outside and saw fire running up the wall
of his neighbor's house at 9115 Cresthill Court.
After calling 911, the
man pounded on the neighbor's door, awakening the three residents, Bentson said.
Firefighters from the Gilroy Fire Department arrived at the home at 1:54 a.m.
and had the fire controlled by 3:58 a.m. but not before the fire had reached
three alarms and destroyed about three-quarters of the house, the garage and two
cars, Bentson said. He estimated the cost of the damage to be around $400,000.
A misplaced smoke detector did not alert the residents, who said the house
was filled with smoke from ceiling to floor, he said.
The smoke detector
was located in the hallway instead of in the bedroom as new codes require, he
The fire is believed to have started from ashes that were in a
garbage can against the side of the garage, he said.
``That dog saved
their lives, there is no doubt in my mind,'' he said of Meg. She ``is definitely
A misplaced smoke detector did not alert the residents, who said
the house was filled with smoke from ceiling to floor, he said.
detector was located in the hallway instead of in the bedroom as new codes
require, he said.
This recent bitter cold weather could have killed a Toledo
woman, but she had a guardian angel on four legs. Her dog
saved her life.
Sam Good has something called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
that affects the nerves and muscles in her body. It sparks
painful seizures through her body. "It's like Restless Legs
Syndrome times 100 and it's through your spine," said Good.
Good told us she was getting ready for bed last week with
nothing more than her pajamas on and decided to turn out the
lights on her unheated back porch. She said the cold ignited
another seizure and she fell onto her loveseat. "I was in a
ball and I got in a ball because I knew I was going to
freeze," Good explained. "I thought I was going to freeze to
death because I couldn't get words out," she added.
Temperatures at the time were in the teens.
In the seat, in intense pain, Good says she was finally able to
call out Maddie's name quietly by human standards, but
plenty-loud for a dog. "She keeps picking my arm up and
picking my arm up," said Good while re-enacting the event.
"And I'm like, 'Maddie, I can't.'"
"And she just put her back under my belly and kept lifting
and lifting," demonstrated Good. At that point, Good says
she could barely get her arms around the dog's neck. "She
had to keep lifting me onto her back to get the rest of me
because I was numb... my spine... I didn't feel anything."
The 104-pound Golden Retriever carried Good on her back,
dragging Good to her bed inside. Good was still hurting but
was warm and eventually the seizures subsided. If it wasn't
for Maddie's rescue? "I'd been froze," Good pointedly told
She also said Maddie isn't just her best friend, "she's the
best dog ever."
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