Golden Heroes

Animal Hero: Hero, Assistance Dog
By Gareth P. Jones, Newport, Monmouthshire, UK

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My hero is my best friend and assistance dog, a Golden Retriever aptly named Hero. We first met on an assessment day at Canine Partners for Independence, a small charity that trains dogs to help severely disabled people. I had been disabled (tetraplegic: i.e., all four limbs affected by paralysis) for five years at this point. My life had been very troubled and a constant struggle during those years, as Nicole (my partner) and family would testify!
Hero chose me to be his partner from a number of potential recipients. The C.P.I. training staff recognised his eagerness to work for me and saw how he would proudly sit by my side during breaks. So I ended up being fast-tracked onto the next available recipient training course. Thankfully, I made the grade and passed on 3rd March 2000.
Since then Hero has been like my shadow; we're never apart. Before I had to have someone around all the time to assist me, but now I'm empowered and have my personal space once again. Hero is never put out when asked to do something, whether picking up objects I drop, opening or closing doors, helping me undress, or anything else.
Family and friends have said how much happier I am these days. Once it struck me how little I went out during the summer months apart from visiting family and friends, Hero and I began to take many walks during the summer. So many, in fact, that I achieved a most enviable sun tan!

One of the most unfortunate side effects of my disability is what the medical profession call 'Root Pain'. Doctors are unable to control my pain, which I endure daily. On some days it incapacitates me to such a degree that I have to lie down. Hero understands this is a difficult time for me and lies beside me, at times with his chin resting upon my chest. Even if the whole day has passed without a walk, he knows this isn't the time to insist. He's just there for me.
We walk regularly, down on the Caldicot Moors road. This road has no public vehicle access and is used by local farmers to gain access to the fields when needed. The rest of the time it's open to pedestrians and cyclists. Whilst walking, I noticed one of the gates was open and thought it would make welcome change for both of us. We entered and after a bit of fun we went to leave. But my electric wheelchair had other thoughts. It lost traction in the sodden ground. I thought it funny at first, until I released I'd left my mobile phone at home.
This is quite an isolated spot and I could expect a long wait. The rain clouds were moving in rapidly, so there wasn't likely to be any other dog walker down this road today. However, I underestimated Hero, who was still feeling pleased with himself for carrying a ball-on-a-rope. Then I realized he could pull me out of the field. I hooked the handle of the ball-on-a-rope to my wheelchair and asked him to pull. At first he pulled gently as he does due to my disability, but when he realised what was required, he pulled forcefully until I had traction closer to the road.
We may have missed the downpour that day, but we both ended up in the dog house when we got home. So pleased with our achievement and keen to tell Nicole of our little adventure, we both forgot Hero and my wheelchair were covered in mud! If Hero hadn't pulled me out of that field I wouldn't be here today. I owe my life to him.

Super Dog Hero gets Award for Saving his Wheelchair Bound Master
The Western Mail, March 12, 2002

A DOG called Hero who lived up to its name and saved his master's life has ended up getting a pat on the head from Ann Widdecombe. Hero, a four-year-old Golden Retriever, was honoured at the All-Star Animal Awards in London for his swift and clever reactions when his master, wheelchair-bound Gareth Jones of Caldicot got stuck in muddy field, was isolated and unable to move.
The specially trained dog - who can perform 100 different tasks for tetraplegic Mr Jones - scooped the outstanding achievement for his life-saving, and he politely offered his paw to Mrs Widdecombe as she presented him with his award. "I was very, very proud of Hero and I must admit I got quite emotional," said 36-year-old former soldier Mr Jones, who has been paralysed since a car accident in 1995.
"When I got stuck in the mud he realised I was in trouble, and started pulling on the rope I threw to him. "He didn't let go until I was clear - he knew exactly what he was doing."


Ginger Bread: A Story of a Very Special Golden Retriever
Gary Ritter

My wife and I were married July 21, 1978, in Abilene Texas. Everything was great between us but we felt like something was missing, we weren’t ready for kids so we decided to get a dog. We looked at all the pet stores and came to the conclusion that if we were going to adopt a dog it would be one that nobody else wanted, so we went to the city pound to see if they had any puppies. In one of the back cages there was a single puppy, cold, wet, and alone. Vickie and I looked at each other and said that’s the one. We paid her fees and took her home. We treated Ginger as if she were a part of our family, she slept at the foot of our bed, and went everywhere with us. The pity we felt for her when we saw her in that cage, soon turned into love and joy for her to be a part of our lives.
Ginger was a part of our family for another fourteen years. She was there when we were happy, she was there when we were sad, she was there through all the good time and the bad, and she was always there. It was something I could count on when I got home, that with no matter what else happened that day, I could count on Ginger being happy to see me.
Ginger never liked loud noises, like airplanes, lawnmowers, or guns. Any time someone was causing a loud noise she either went to the other side of the house, or in the house if she could. Another thing she didn’t like were Rattle Snakes, if one came in the yard we could tell it by Ginger’s frantic movements to get inside or to get to the other side of the house. One late summer day Vickie was mowing the yard and naturally Ginger was on the other side of the house, but she wasn’t acting right, something was wrong and I didn’t see, I guess I didn’t pay attention to her. Finally Vickie got to the back yard with her mowing, she was making a pass right up the side of the house. Vickie looked up and Ginger was standing in the path of the lawnmower, Vickie thought she would move on when she got a little closer.
But Ginger stood her ground, she looked worried and nervous, Vickie thought it was just the noise. I guess Ginger decided she couldn’t get Vickie to stop, so she dove at something that was on the ground between a 5 gallon gas can and a large block, then she jerked her head back and Vickie could see a Rattle Snake reach up and hit Ginger a second time in the face.
Vickie yelled for me and tried to hold Ginger back from the snake. I rushed around the house, saw the snake and killed it with a shovel, and then I grabbed Ginger up and rushed her to the vet. The Dr. worked on her for several hours then he came out and said, take her home and make her comfortable. Ginger lived for two more days; she died during the night alone for the second time in her life.
For weeks after that I couldn’t look around and not expect to see her. I had never hurt so much over an animal, but Ginger was pretty special. I was devastated and so was Vickie, ya know we just didn’t know what to do without her. About a month later I had a dream, where I was looking out a window, and Ginger came running around the corner like she had done a thousand times. She stopped and looked up at me, then she turned and ran to the back fence and jumped over it, then she stopped and turned around and looked at me again, then she trotted off.
Ever since that night I have felt at ease with what she did, and realized that if Ginger hadn’t jumped at the snake, I might have lost my wife instead of my dog. There is not a doubt in my mind that Ginger didn’t lay down her life for Vickie. She knew the snake was there, she was afraid of snakes and lawnmowers but she stood just five feet from a mower and took the snakebite herself.  


Dog Alerts Neighbor When Painter Falls
NewsNet5, June 26, 2002

AKRON, Ohio -- A dog prevented a tragedy from happening last week. Painter Kevin McDonald was painting a home in Akron when the ladder he was standing on gave way, NewsChannel5 reported. "Once the ladder broke, that was it. I was on the ground so fast I had no time to react," McDonald said.
The homeowner was gone, but the family dog was still around. The Golden Retriever saw McDonald fall 12 feet from the roof.
Neighbor Marie Istvan said the smart-thinking pet alerted her by running next door. "He acted real funny like there was something wrong," Istvan said.
She followed the dog and found McDonald barely moving in a pool of blood. She was able to get him help right away. McDonald spent two days in the hospital but has since returned to work. He thanked the neighbor and the dog for saving his life.


Lending a Neighborly Paw
By Sarah Moore, The Beaumont Enterprise, December 9, 2002

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Meet, 10-year-old Golden Stony, lying in the doorway of his Central Drive home in this photo by Scott Eslinger.

BEAUMONT - Clarence Bell has a dog to thank for his well being today. Bell pledged to keep Stony, a 10-year-old Golden Retriever, in kibble for the rest of his days after the dog came to his rescue recently.
When 94-year-old Clarence Bell heard the pop in his hip after falling in the driveway of his Central Drive home, he knew he must have broken it. He looked around him, but no one was nearby. As he lay there, Stony, his neighbor's dog, came over to investigate.
Stony and Bell were old friends, Bell said. Stony would hear Bell's garage door open in the morning and race over to greet him. "We've been big buddies for the last nine years," Bell said this past week from his hospital bed where he is recovering from a broken hip.
This time, Stony came and laid his head on Bell's chest. Bell said he told the dog, "Stony, go get some help, I'm hurt." The dog raised his head and looked at him. Bell repeated his request. Stony jumped up and ran back to his house, barking all the way. "If it hadn't been for the dog, I don't know how long I'd have laid there," Bell said.
Jeb Hurt, Bell's next door neighbor and Stony's owner, heard him barking "real loud," he said, and went out to investigate. Stony led Hurt over to the driveway where Bell lay injured. Hurt called for an ambulance. "I didn't know he had it in him," Hurt said of Stony's intelligent response. "He's never been faced with anything like this before."

Hurt said Stony is just "a regular old house-dog" - maybe more spoiled than some. "He's the best dog in the world," Hurt said. "I wouldn't trade him for anything."


Wet-nosed Hero has Tale to Tell
By Gerald Ensley, Tallahassee Democrat Senior Writer, December 21, 2002

Sometimes, a dog is man's best friend. Sometimes, he's also a lifesaver. That was the case for Leon High School senior Paul Walker this week, when a nighttime stroll with his 4-year-old Golden Retriever, Foster, ended with Walker tumbling into a roadside culvert and being knocked unconscious.

Foster remained beside Walker and barked at passing cars until a driver stopped, saw Walker in the culvert and called for help. Walker, who suffered a bruised spine, spent two nights in the hospital. He is expected to make a full recovery. But Foster's dedication brought rapid aid to his master. "If it hadn't been for Foster, I don't think Paul would have been found for a long time," said Leslee Walker, Paul's mother. "I've always known goldens are smart. But I'm awed by this."

The incident happened about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday in Lakeshore Estates off Timberlane Road. Walker, 17, who lives in the adjoining Lakeshore Gardens off John Hancock Road, had taken Foster for a walk to look at the neighborhood's Christmas lights. They had walked all the way down Hancock and halfway up Timberlane, a journey of about a mile, when they turned to come back. Walker said Foster, who was on a leash, saw a squirrel and gave chase with Walker running behind. "We weren't going real fast, but I was trying to let him think he had a chance (to catch the squirrel)," Walker said.
At the bottom of Timberlane, a large pipe-and-culvert system drains a forested wetland flanking both sides of the road. Foster suddenly stopped running - presumably because the squirrel disappeared into the culvert. But Walker was unable to stop in time and flipped over the 87-pound Foster, tumbling down a slight incline on the north side of the road.
    Walker was knocked unconscious. He wound up on his back, with his head, neck and shoulder draped over the V-shaped opening of one of the waist-high drainage pipes that run under the road. With one more roll, Walker would have fallen into the pipe and disappeared from view.
As it was, Walker was 10 feet from the road, lying motionless in pitch-black darkness. Foster immediately took up guard duty. He lay beside Walker and barked at passing cars. After about 20 minutes, Foster got an assist from Kimberly Kemp.
Kemp, an ardent animal lover, was driving home. She slowed near the culvert as she always does because there are no streetlights in that area and it is a frequent crossing for fox, raccoons and deer. As she slowed, she heard Foster's deep-throated barking. She turned around and came back, and saw Foster beside the road with his leash still dangling from the collar.
Kemp got out of her car, intending to corral Foster and find his owner. Foster wagged his tail happily when she was in the road - but growled menacingly each time she tried to get closer. As Kemp tried to reassure Foster, another car approached. The headlights revealed Walker's feet - and an alarmed Kemp called 911 on her cell phone. "I didn't know if the person was asleep, drunk or dead," Kemp said.
Leon County sheriff's Detective Chris Chase was the first on the scene. He was quickly followed by Tallahassee Fire Department Lt. Wendy Wilson and sheriff's Deputy Keith Luce. The first thought of all the officers was "Signal 7" - or fatality. "My original thought was he was dead," Luce said. "His head was hyper-extended back into the tube, and I thought for sure he had broken his neck."
Foster continued to growl at anyone who tried to get close to Walker. Chase eventually won the dog's trust and got close enough to shine a flashlight on Walker's face. "The light in my eyes woke me up," Walker said. "I realized I was upside down, and my dog was licking my face. But I don't remember anything else (after tripping over Foster)."
Leslee Walker, concerned when her son had been gone more than a half hour - "although Paul is a walker" - was called to the scene by police. Walker was taken by ambulance to Tallahassee Community Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a bruised spine. Despite weakness in his right arm, doctors said he should recover completely.
Late Thursday, Walker returned to the home he shares with his mother, a certified public accountant, and his brother, Travis, 20, a student at the University of Florida. Though his parents are divorced, his father, Tom Walker, an engineer in Sarasota, spent several days in town.
    Paul Walker and Foster, an energetic, friendly dog named after a former neighbor's Golden Retriever, enjoyed an affectionate reunion. Foster is Walker's second Golden; his first, Tequila, died at age 9 of cancer. Walker plans to attend the University of Florida and wants to become a veterinarian. "Foster is my best friend. I think Goldens are brilliant," he said. "I've always wanted to be a vet, and this experience just re-affirms it."
Walker's mother was relieved the incident was over. "I'm proud of both my boys (Paul and Foster)," she said. "We've just got to fix up Foster with some brake lights."


Retriever Fetches Phone in Emergency
By Nancy Walbeck, American Anacortes Staff Writer, April 30, 2003

Anacortes poet and college teacher Alice Lee, and her golden retriever, Morgan, share an affectionate moment. Morgan came to his mistress's aid last week by fetching Lee a phone to call for help. Morgan might only be a 3-year-old golden retriever, but he knows exactly when he needs to step up and get it done. When his mistress, Alice Lee of Anacortes, fell and broke her left leg last Tuesday, April 22, Morgan went into emergency mode. Trained by the Summit Assistance Dog program, the retriever listened intently to Lee's instructions -- "get the phone, get the phone."
Morgan fetched the portable phone and brought it to Lee, who had fallen in her living room. Neighbors' phone numbers were taped on the back of the phone, which enabled Lee to call her friend, Candace Conacher, who then took her to Island Hospital for treatment. Lee was home alone because her husband, Wayne Lee, was performing in Seattle with his string quartet. "Morgan was the hero. He helped me," said Lee, who has a neurological ailment, spinal cerebral ataxia Type 3. Sometimes her illness affects her balance and causes muscle spasms, so she and Morgan signed up to work together last August.
At first, the merging was not successful, Lee admitted. She worried that Morgan would get underfoot and cause more problems for her. But they soon got in sync and now Morgan does a number of tasks for her. "He takes my socks off and I'm teaching him to put them on," Lee said, sharing a laugh. "He picks up credit cards, my receipt from the store counter and he also knows which stores give treats. Ace Hardware is his favorite," she added.
Lee said what's amazing is that Morgan was rescued from a shelter before his training, so this relationship is his "second chance." "He's a family member now. We call him Wiggle Butt because he does and, when he eats, Snortin' Morton, because that's what he sounds like," she said.

Lee, who teaches English at Skagit Valley College's Whidbey Island campus, soon will release her new collection of poetry, "Twenty Poems from the Blue House," published by the Whistle Lake Press. A portion of the book's proceeds will benefit the Summit dog project, she said.


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