Golden Heroes


Dog given Purple Paw Award for saving owner from rattlesnake
By Richard Ecke, Great Falls Tribune, April 22, 2012

Crockett, a 5-year-old golden retriever, is the most recent recipient of the Purple Paw Award. Owner Christi Fisher is in the background. TRIBUNE PHOTO/RION SANDERS

Christi Fisher dozed off while fishing in a boat on Tiber Reservoir around 10 a.m. on an August day last year. Her friend's dog, a black labradoodle named Maggie, joined in the slumber.

In the back of the boat, a curly-haired golden retriever named Crockett remained awake, intently watching fishing lines for signs that fish had taken the bait.

"She's an excitable creature" who loves to fish, Fisher said.

For what happened next, Crockett won the Purple Paw Award at the annual Fur Ball fundraiser put on Saturday night by the Great Falls Animal Foundation.

Back in the boat, disaster struck in the form of a rattlesnake more than 4-feet long, with a diameter as big as an apple.

"For a Montana rattlesnake, he was a big one," Fisher said.

Tiber Reservoir is famous for rattlesnakes — this one swam through the water and climbed into the boat, probably trying to get warm, Fisher theorized.

"I heard this big commotion," Fisher said. "I can't remember if I heard a yelp — she might have barked."

Crockett ran past Fisher to the front of the boat after the snake bit the dog near her eye.

"I turned around, and then I saw the snake halfway in my boat," Fisher said.

For a moment, Fisher thought about grabbing her iPhone to take a photograph, but she thought the better of that and grabbed an aluminum pole.

Rather than feel scared, Fisher was miffed the creature had invaded the fishing boat.

"I was actually angry at the darn thing," said Fisher, a civil engineer with the federal Natural Resources and Conservation Service.

Fisher used the pole to joust with the snake, which was so big the pole bent.

The cold rattler also was wrapped around the boat motor. Fisher decided to grab the snake and pull it fully into the boat. As she held the creature, the snake's head came around repeatedly, trying to bite her.

After some frantic moments, Fisher tossed the snake into the water and then snapped a photo of it. When the snake swam back toward the boat, Fisher fired up the boat motor and took off.

She said she planned to fish some more, until Crockett came over and put her head on Fisher's knee, at which time she pet the dog.

"My hand came up with blood on it," Fisher said. "I thought, 'Yikes, maybe it's a snake bite.'"

Crockett's face was swelling, and the boat was 7 miles from camp.

"That's the fastest packing job you've ever seen," Fisher said, adding that she drove rapidly back to Great Falls.

"Poor Crockett," she said. "Her eyes were so swelled up she couldn't even see. I thought she was going to die on the way."

Fisher hurriedly parked outside the office of Great Falls veterinarian Micki Lague, who administered antivenin to counteract the snake venom.

"She came around fast after she got that shot," Fisher said.

It turned out getting bitten in the face proved better for Crockett than a bite in an area with more muscle, which could have been deadly.

Crockett seemed to feel better just few weeks after the snake bite.

Had Crockett not been on guard in the fishing boat, the rattlesnake might have bitten her owner instead.

"Crockett is a great example of a bond between animals and humans," said Ellen Gauthier, spokeswoman for the Animal Foundation. "She has saved a human life."

Fisher isn't sure Crockett would have been so heroic had she heard rattling from the snake, since the dog — like its owner — is not a big fan of snakes. The snake's rattles were in the water and silent when Crockett confronted it.

The owner believes she knows what would happen if Crockett — named after frontiersman Davy Crockett — runs into a snake again.

"If she smells that scent, she'll probably be in the next county," Fisher said with a laugh.

She said she hasn't been back to Tiber Reservoir to fish since that day, but she won't rule it out.

She plans to go back "if I hear the walleye fishing's good."

Meanwhile, Crockett shows little evidence she was traumatized by the experience. These days, she careens around the house like a bull in a china shop.

But there is one visible reminder of that fateful day when a dog might have saved her master.

"It turned her face permanently gray," Fisher said.





Resolute Pooch Helps Save Injured Elderly Woman
By Deborah McGuire, Count May County Herald, April 12, 2012

NORTH WILDWOOD — Make no bones about it, Aza is a hero.

Out for her walk during the early evening hours of April 11, Aza, a 9-year-old, epileptic, dark golden retriever, decided not to listen to her master, and in so doing, helped save the life of an elderly woman who had fallen in her home in the 300 block of East 10th Avenue.

“Usually I walk the dog after I eat dinner,” said Bill Madle. “I let her walk me. I let her go wherever.”

Aza seemed to want to take her owner on a new route. “I headed up from here, from 12th (Avenue), crossing over 10th and Atlantic on the 10th Avenue side. She kept turning her head, looking,” said Madle about that extraordinary walk with Aza.

As much as her master urged and tugged her, Aza stood her ground. She would not budge.

“She kept turning her head looking. I kept saying, ‘Come on, come on’,” said Madle, telling how he tried motivating the pooch to move along by pulling on her leash. “She kept stopping and turning her head like there was something.”

Finally her owner was able to get Aza across the street where she stopped on the corner and wanted to cross over to City Hall. “I kept saying, ‘Come on, Aza, come on’ because I wanted to walk the other way." Aza, however, obviously had something else on her canine mind.

Standing there with his defiant dog, Madle finally acquiesced and crossed the street to the City Hall side.

“I let her lead the way,” he said “so when I got closer, about two houses away, I heard what she was probably hearing. It was a small, petite lady paralyzed at her door with her head down. She was saying ‘Help me!’” According to Madle the woman’s cries for help were so weak they sounded more like a cat’s meow.

With the season not yet in full swing, the woman’s street was a virtual ghost town, except for Aza and her master. According to Madle, a large hedge obscured the front door. Except for Aza’s keen hearing, the injured woman would probably not have been heard or seen.

“She was calling out ‘Help me,” Madle said, noting that the woman’s voice was so weak and so faint.

“When I was one house away, then I heard what she (Aza) was hearing. I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, it’s an old lady. Is that what she was hearing?’”

According to Madle, Aza led him to a woman who appeared to be in her eighties. She was drenched in blood and had made her way to the front door after apparently falling inside her home.

“She was at her door, kneeled down with her head out the door in a puddle of blood,” he said.

Aza was intent on seeing her job through. She pulled Madle up onto the porch of the injured woman’s house.

Madle immediately called 9-1-1 from his cell phone. While talking to the dispatcher, he was able to flag down two officers from the Cape May County Sheriff’s Department who were driving by, en route to North Wildwood Police Department for prisoner pickup.

Sheriff’s officers called for additional police assistance, along with rescue personnel.

Upon their arrival on scene, rescue personnel were able to stabilize the victim and transported her to Cape Regional Medical Center for treatment of her injury.

City Fire Chief Jeffrey Cole told the Herald that without Aza’s help, the prognosis for the victim might have been far more grim.

“It would have been extremely difficult for a passerby to have seen her,” said Cole noting the hedge in front of the house. “The fact that the whole thing transpired with the dog was instrumental in getting her aid.” Cole added the woman’s condition was “very time sensitive.”

According to rescue personnel the victim had lain there for an undetermined amount of time.

“Whatever led the dog to take her master to the scene was instrumental in us getting the call and responding to it,” said Cole.

With her lifesaving duty done for the day, Aza returned home for her rest. Due to the stress of the day, she suffered an epileptic seizure.

“She saw all the blood and the lady,” said Madle. “We waited there for the ambulance and the police. She saw all the activity.”

“I never go where she wants to go,” said Madle. “I just let her go. I figured there was a cat out and she wanted to go see where the cat was.”

“We’re very proud of her,” said Madle. “The look on her face when she kept looking at me…she knew something was wrong somewhere.”

When asked if they thought their dog was exceptional Madle and his wife Joanne adamantly agreed.

Joanne Madle explained the meaning of Aza’s name. In the Bible, Aza is the name of an angel. In Swahili the name means ‘powerful’.

As a reward for her good deed Aza, the angel who saved an injured octogenarian by being powerful enough to pull her master to where she needed to be, was given her favorite treat – a bath.







Faithful companion guards woman during 20-hour ordeal
By: Tom Cherveny, West Central Tribune, November 22, 2011

Erma Iverson says she has lots to be thankful for after spending about 20 hours stranded and helpless outside her rural Yellow Medicine County home on a late September day and night.

The 79-year-old woman’s first thanks go to her dog, Crackers, for keeping at bay coyotes and raccoons through the long night of her ordeal.

Her next thanks go out to postal carrier Stan Boushek, who discovered her and called for help.

Iverson spent nine days in the hospital recovering from her ordeal, and said nurses told her: “A couple more hours and I wouldn’t be here.’’

Iverson, who was reached recently by phone at her daughter’s home in Arizona, has playfully penned a story of her ordeal under the heading “Camping with Crackers.’’

Her unexpected camping trip started on a warm afternoon Sept. 26. She lives on a country road along the Minnesota River in the vicinity of the Rock Valle Lutheran Church. There are six, widely-spaced homes along the road, none within easy eyesight or earshot of the other.

Accompanied by her companion Crackers, Iverson intended to walk about one-third of a mile across the road to visit her sister.

Bending down to pick up some branches, she fell and was unable to get back up, no matter how hard she tried. She takes medication for Parkinson’s Disease. She was about 20 feet from the road and the same distance from her home.

She repeatedly pressed a medical alert button on her wrist, but it didn’t seem to work, she said. She yelled and yelled, but no one heard her pleas.

The afternoon turned to dusk and soon the darkness descended.

Crackers stayed with her through it all, even when the unwelcome nighttime visitors arrived. Raccoons were the first to slink towards her. Crackers repeatedly chased them away. Some scampered up trees and watched her from branches; others disappeared into brush along a creek.

Next she heard a deer thump its hoof on the ground and snort an alert to its fawn as it nearly stumbled upon her.

That’s when she heard the yipping of the first coyotes and thought “Oh no, not them.’’ Crackers kept the ghost-like visitors away, chasing after the smaller ones.

Weather Service records show area temperatures fell into the mid-40’s that night, mild for that time of year. Iverson was wearing jeans and a warm shirt, but by midnight she was feeling the cold. She was dehydrated and had not been able to take her medication. As she shivered in the cold, Iverson said she’d roll over and warm one side and then the other.

She slept some. The rumble of trucks hauling gravel on her road woke her at daybreak. She had fallen in a place where she could not readily be seen from the road. Unable to lift her arms and wave down help, she said she waited helplessly and listened as the occasional truck charged down the gravel road.

Sometime in the morning she either went to sleep or lost consciousness. Her next memory is being awoken by postal carrier Stan Boushek, who had arrived on schedule at 12:45 p.m. He had driven up to the driveway and was just able to spot her from the vantage point.

She had one eye completely swollen shut and the other nearly so. Her body was swollen, bruised and full of scratches from her struggles.

“I told him I’m okay if you can help me get up,’’ she said. Boushek knew better, and summoned help. She was transported to the Granite Falls Hospital, where she made a full recovery.

Crackers stayed at her side through it all, but Iverson said afterwards she had reason to wonder what might have happened. Days after her recovery, she heard that someone had reported seeing a cougar within a mile of her home.



Golden Retriever saves teen from snake bite, October 12, 2011

Nicholas Caudillo with Rickstar, the family pet that saved
        him from a Northern Pacific Rattler.

Rockstar is a hero.

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, the young Golden Retriever caught a rattlesnake in mid strike to save Nicholas Caudillo, the 16-year-old son of Jennifer and Robert Schetter from the snake’s bite.

Nicholas and his brother Ian Schetter were playing on their bicycles in their driveway when the 42-inch Northern Pacific Rattler lunged at Nicholas.

The dog grabbed the snake by the head, but the snake was able to get away to a protective area. Rockstar moved in for the kill, but was bit on the face for his efforts.

Nicholas then disposed of the snake with farm implements.

Rockstar is not only the family’s best friend, but now he is hero. The dog was treated immediately at Tehachapi Veterinary Hospital with great success. He has recovered and is doing very well due to their expert efforts.

The family wishes to thank the staff there for their compassion and professionalism. They also expressed thanks to Johnette Latone who was caring for their son Christian at the time of the attack.

If it wasn’t for her quick action to get Rockstar to the veterinary hospital, the outcome would have been completely different, Jennifer Schetter said.

“We have now realized how expensive treatment is for rattlesnake bites and it takes my breath away when I think about what would have happened if I didn’t have the money to treat our family member,” she said.

“I can’t help but wonder how many beloved pets couldn’t be treated because of cost. Our family plans to discuss this matter further with Tehachapi Veterinary Hospital to see if donations can be made to help families that are found in this situation.”




Dog saves man paralyzed in biking accident
By Jim Bergamo, KVUE NEWS (, December 7, 2010


AUSTIN, Texas -- This story sounds like something out of a movie: A freak accident leaves a cyclist unable to move, so his dog takes over.

Five weeks ago, on Oct. 30, Paul Horton set out for his morning bike ride. As always, his dog, Yogi, went along for the run. However, this ride would end like no other and offer proof why dog is "man's best friend."

Paul Horton, 57, wound up at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital after he failed to negotiate a seemingly little jump from the trail to a paved road near Lake Travis.

"I had probably done that 100 times, 200 times," said Horton.

But on the morning of Oct. 30, he did not.

"I went over the handle bars and landed on my head on the concrete ... and life changed," said Horton.

Life changed because he was now paralyzed from the chest down. Horton lay motionless for 45 minutes. With no one in sight, he realized his 4-year-old golden retriever was still by his side.

"I expected him to behave like Lassie and run down to the police station and tap out my location in Morse code or something," said Horton.


Yogi did not do that, but did something just about as impressive. Horton's neighbor, Bruce Tate, recalls walking down Mountain Trail with his wife when they were met by Yogi.

"Yogi is a quiet, happy dog, he's never noisy at all, but he was barking furiously to get our attention," said Tate.

The Tates followed Yogi throughout the wooded area and down the hill. When they saw Horton, they called 911. To this day, the Tates wonder what would have happened if Yogi had not interrupted their walk.

"I don't think we would have seen Paul without Yogi," he said. "I think Yogi saved his life."

"For somebody who cannot move and cannot ask for help, you can develop a pressure ulcer, you develop an infection, a clot, and you can die if you are not rescued soon," said Dr. Juan Latoree, the Medical Director of St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital. "So I think the dog was critical."

"He is my hero, I mean he is my hero. It is possible that if he had not done what he did, they might have walked right on by and gone down the road and there is no telling when somebody else would have come by," said Horton.

Horton has some movement in his arms, hands, and upper body. His rehab specialist says in just a month he has made the kind of progress it takes some patients a year to achieve.

Horton and his wife Sharon are extremely grateful to St. David's, their friends and neighbors, and most of all, to Yogi.

Winners of the Fourth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards
The Humane Society of the United States, March 13, 2011

Valor Dog of the Year and People's Hero
Owner: Paul Horton, Austin, TX

Paul Horton and his 4-year-old golden retriever, Yogi, set out to exercise—Horton biked while Yogi trotted beside him. While on a mountain trail a few blocks from home, Horton hit a bump, flipped over the handlebars and landed on his head. He was paralyzed.

For the next 45 minutes, Yogi refused to leave. When Horton told Yogi to go home, he instead went to the top of the hill where the trail met the road and barked furiously. When Horton’s neighbors took their dog for a walk nearby, they were drawn by Yogi’s barking and out-of-character agitation. Once they drew closer, Yogi ran down the hill, leading them to where Horton lay. Once they reached Horton, Yogi stood sentry.

Even when the paramedics arrived, Yogi refused to leave Horton’s side. After surgery and countless tests, Horton found out he had broken a vertebra and was paralyzed from the chest down. But without quick treatment, his injury would have been even worse. Horton is still receiving treatment, but each time he returns home from the hospital, Yogi stays glued to his side.


Pet retriever defends boy, 11, against cougar attack
By Justine Hunter, Globe and Mail, January 3, 2010

How could anyone not grab a hold of this story? We just love the different versions coming out of Canada about this tale that has swept the news worldwide. Denise Ryan, of the Vancouver Sun, began this way: "Angel leapt a full 1.5 metres above the ground, sailed over a lawn mower and intercepted a cougar mid-air, just as it was about to pounce on 11-year-old Austin Forman. The cougar got Angel, a golden retriever, around the neck and the two animals fell to the ground, the cougar’s jaws clamped tight around the dog’s neck. Austin ran inside, frantic and screaming. “I was terrified,” said Austin. “My dog saved my life, but now the cougar had him.”

Please note: In order to hear the broadcast on the right, click on the sound icon. Then, move the volume bar up in order to hear the report. The sound cannot be heard unless this is done.


Last week, when Angel was frolicking in the snow, family members called her a "snow angel," Mrs. Forman said. "Now, she's our guardian angel." In a seemingly prophetic move, Angel had been following Austin around prior to the attack. "She must've known something was up," the boy's mother said.


Angel during happier times


A B.C. family's pet dog is being credited with prevented a potentially deadly attack on a child in the community of Boston Bar

Austin Forman was hauling firewood in his backyard on the weekend – one of the 11-year-old's weekly chores – when his golden retriever, Angel, began acting strange.

“He thought that was kind of cool, she was following him around,” the boy's father, Jay Forman, recalled Sunday from his home in Boston Bar, B.C., a rural community about 200 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

“Angel is a year-and-a-half old, she's like a teenager that has been drinking Starbucks coffee for a week straight, nothing slows her down and she only listens to you about half the time.”

It was already dark on Saturday evening and Austin had little time to react when he discovered the reason for Angel's strange behaviour. The boy spotted what he first thought was a strange dog emerge from the shadows. Just two metres away, the cat charged at him.


Angel the golden retriever is shown after a battle with a cougar in Boston Bar, B.C.


“He was like: Aw, crap, it's a cougar.”

But Angel was ready – the young dog leapt at the hungry cougar and “took the whack,” Mr. Forman said. The boy escaped inside his home while the two animals battled for several minutes.

“The cougar was latched onto her head, you could hear both the dog and the cougar screaming. Then it went silent.”

RCMP Constable Chad Gravelle was less than a minute away from the home when he got an emergency call about a cougar mauling and a child. In the small community, he knows the Forman kids and arrived fearing the worst.

“When I found it was the dog, I was relieved,” he said.

He stepped into the backyard and saw that the cougar, a young, skinny female, had dragged Angel under the porch. “I could see the cougar was chewing on the dog's jugular, I took a shot at the cougar's hind end,” he said. “They were all tangled up together and I don't want to hit the dog,” He climbed down and got close enough to put a killing shot through the cougar's head.

“We brought it out on the snow, the dog was laying there lifeless,” he said. As the family gathered, consoling Austin, the dog suddenly sprang up. “She coughed a bit of blood, she started wagging her tail, snuggled up to Austin and licked him.”

The Formans' home is just off the Trans-Canada Highway, but the neighbourhood is sparsely populated and the cougar wouldn't have to wander far from the wilderness to find their backyard.


An RCMP officer shot the cougar dead. Jan. 3, 2010. (RCMP handout)

Mr. Forman, who was initially reluctant to adopt the formerly apartment-bound dog last year, now can't say enough about the pooch. “My son was saved by Angel.”

As the youngest of five siblings, Austin has been closer to the dog than any other member of the family. “They kind of bonded because they are both hyper,” his dad explained.

His son is shaken but unhurt, and Angel is expected to recover.

“She is doing pretty good, she has a bunch of puncture wounds in the head, the neck and the thigh. But there's nothing missing. It's pretty amazing.”

Angel has been sent to recover with a friend who raises dogs. “What do we do? It's an hour's drive to a vet.”

As for Austin, he won't be allowed to dawdle over his chores any more, his father said.

“I think the firewood is going to have to be done in the daylight, now that we know there are strange things lurking in the dark.”

January 5, 2009 Update
Angel had more more injuries than first believed, as these Goldens seem to demonstrate a quite high tolerance to pain. Her updated medical status is provided in the Today Show update.





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