Monday, January 25, 2010

Killer Golden Retriever Saves Boy

Retriever saves 11-year-old boy from cougar attack in Boston Bar
By Denise Ryan, Vancouver SunJanuary 4, 2010

A golden retriever saved his 11-year-old owner from a cougar attack Saturday in Boston Bar, BC.
Photograph by: Handout, RCMPAngel 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.”

Austin had been bringing firewood in from the backyard woodshed at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday in a Boston Bar subdivision, a regular chore.

But this time, as he paused with his wheelbarrow full of wood, he heard the sound of something crunching across the snow.

He turned and saw a dark shadow just an arm’s length from him. Then it charged. Angel jumped, leaping at the cougar.

Austin’s panicked mother, Sherri, immediately called her husband, who was at his dad’s place, and then called 911.

Within minutes, the howling and crying of the animals had stopped. From inside the house, “all we could hear was the heavy breathing of the cougar,” said Austin’s 17-year-old sister Holly.

“He had Angel’s head in his mouth and was suffocating her.”

RCMP Const. Chad Gravelle happened to be at the station, not far from the Forman home.

“I got the call that there was a cougar mauling a child, and that it was Austin,” said Gravelle.

“He’s a good little guy, and I was just hoping nothing was happening to him.”

Gravelle rushed to the house. “The daughter came out, everyone was crying. They said the cougar had the dog.”

Gravelle’s first thought was “Thank Christ he doesn’t have the boy.”

Then he drew his gun. There was no second thought.

“I ran through the house and out the back.”

Gravelle told everyone to stay inside.

“I leaned over and I could see the tail coming out from under the porch, and I could see the cougar had the dog at its neck.”

Gravelle paused. “I wanted to hit the cougar and miss the dog. They were all tangled up together.”

He took his time to aim and line up his shot, three or four seconds at most.

The first shot got the cougar in the hind end, said Gravelle. He hoped that would be enough, but the cougar only growled and clamped down harder on the dog’s head.

Gravelle shot again, this time hitting the cougar in the head.

Inside the house, Austin heard two loud bangs.

“It was very exciting to see him take action right away to get that cougar away from our dog, that he didn’t hesitate,” said Austin.

But when his father, Jay, and Gravelle pulled Angel out from under the porch and lay her in the snow, she didn’t move.

“I thought she was dead,” said Austin. He didn’t want to go outside.

“When we got the cougar off of her, she was barely breathing,” said Jay. “All of a sudden she took a big deep breath.”

Angel began to drag herself through the snow, rubbing her face in it, trying to clear the blood away. Slowly she raised herself up.

“All of a sudden its lungs filled with air and it stood up, like a person shaking off a long sleep,” said Gravelle. “It was unreal.”

“She’s up,” cried Jay.

Austin and the rest of the family came out and down the back stairs.

Angel, her eyes covered in blood, her fur matted and torn, went from person to person, sniffing them until she got to Austin.

“She stopped at my son,” said Jay. “Once she had smelled him and made sure the cougar didn’t get him, she went back and flopped down.”

Austin threw his arms around Angel. “I thanked her and petted her and gave her a hug.

“After I found out that she was alive, I was very joyful,” said Austin.

“I’m happy that my dog is all right and that the cougar didn’t get a chance to harm anyone else.”

He said that before the attack, he’d noticed the rambunctious one-year-old retriever was behaving oddly.

The dog stuck a little too close to him as he pushed the wheelbarrow through the snow, and then lay down in front of the woodshed door, as if to block it as he loaded up.

Usually Angel would be tearing around the yard, playing, only coming if she was called.

As Austin emptied the first load from wheelbarrow in the house, he told his mom he thought Angel was finally learning to behave.

The attack happened as he stopped for a second to rest as he wheeled the second load across the yard.

While there had been reports of a cougar being spotted in the area, no one was too worried. The woodshed was in the backyard, and besides, cougars didn’t usually cross to that side of the Fraser River.

Austin’s grandfather, Lloyd Foreman commended Gravelle. “We can’t say enough about the quick response by the officer involved.”

Angel will be taken to Chilliwack veterinary hospital today for a checkup, but other than some puncture wounds and tears, it looks like she’ll be all right.

“She loved to play in the snow, so we used to call her our snow Angel,” said Jay. “Now we call her our guardian angel.”

dryan@vancouversun.com

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