Legendary Rescuer Throws His Body into Traffic to Shield Dog
Last year, hero Don Hill became famous overnight for the rescue of 15-year-old Roadie. Don’s extraordinary measures to save the life of this elderly throw away and the love he exuded for the dog brought in tens of thousands of readers and more than 1,000 personal letters to Don from as far away as Afghanistan and Nepal. Don has done it again, and his most recent rescue will leave you breathless.
Written by Don Hill
About 10 weeks ago, I was on my way back from Atlanta to my home in the North Georgia Mountains above the small former gold rush town of Dahlonega, GA. I stopped at a traffic signal for a very busy three-way intersection for three major four lane highways, when on the grass island in the middle of this hectic and dangerous intersection I was horrified to see a German Shepherd Dog who was pacing back and forth on the grass island. Obviously frightened to death, it appeared to be extremely emaciated and was holding up its left hind leg not putting any weight on it or touching it to the ground, leading me to believe the leg had been injured.
My heart was pounding in my chest. I was so scared it was going to run out in to the very heavy traffic before I could do anything and I was going to see it die right there in front of me. My first instinct was to drive my Jeep across the intersection and right up over the curb and onto the grass island and try to save it. My mind suddenly flashed back to Laredo my White German Shepherd Dog who had died at age 13 of a massive stroke, after 10 years with me, just months earlier on September 18th, 2011. Then just as suddenly, my mind was back on this poor dog — terrified, injured and surrounded on all three sides by speeding cars and trucks. I knew if I went with my first instincts there was a good chance my Jeep charging up over the curb and onto the grass traffic island would scare this dog into running out into the traffic.
Making My Way Into the Highway Traffic
I made my way to the shoulder of the road, parked on the grass and put on my emergency flashers, then I got out, grabbed a stiff braided nylon leash off the back seat that I always keep in the Jeep. How am I’m going to get to it? The traffic was blocking my path as the cars flew by me furiously, oblivious to the life and death struggle that was about to unfold here. I could just barely see the dog over the traffic, still pacing back and forth along one side of the island looking as if it was going to make a break for it and dart out into the traffic any second.
Just then a couple of motorists who must have seen the dog as well and then saw me standing on the shoulder of the road hopelessly with a leash in my hand looking across the highway at the dog realized what I was attempting to do and they slowed to a stop, together blocking both lanes of traffic for me and allowing me to make it to the middle of the busy highway. Then a break in the traffic allowed me to cross the other two lanes and onto the grass traffic island.
This frightened dog ran to one corner of the island then stopped, looking back at me, then at the cars flying by several times as if it was trying to decide which scared it more, me or the cars and my heart sank as I thought the dog was about to make a run for it into the traffic. I backed up several paces and dropped to one knee hoping that by putting myself down lower would make it decide I was less of a threat then the speeding cars.
It seemed to have worked. It stopped looking at the cars and focused its attention on me, but the dog wasn’t moving from that corner of the island. I began to speak to it as calmly and as softly as I could over the noise of the traffic and the wind created by the cars rushing by. After what seemed like hours due to my pounding heart and the adrenaline rushing through me — but in reality was only a few minutes — it slowly, very slowly, started to move in my direction, but it was still not ready to trust me.
Then, The Unthinkable Happened…
After about 15 more minutes of coaxing, the dog had crept within inches of me. I held the stiff leash in a slip noose at my side in my right hand. I slowly offered it the back of my left hand to sniff. I was totally focused on this dog. It was as if the traffic no longer existed — it was just the two of us, me asking for the dog’s trust and the dog trying to decide if I was worthy.
I could feel its hot breath on the back of my left hand — that’s how close it was. My heart stopped pounding and started to jump for joy as I just knew this poor dog was going to trust me and let me save it. Moving very slowly, not wanting to startle the dog or do anything it may interpret as a threat, I was just about to make my move and slip the noose over its head as the dog continued to sniff the back of my left hand. Just at that moment, some Gilligan was driving by the island and decided it would be funny to sound his car horn long and loud.
The sound of the car horn broke the bond and my worst fear was realized as the dog ran straight into the traffic. Without a thought, I was right behind it onto the busy highway amid the sound and smoke of the screeching tires. I was just a couple of feet behind the dog when a car came to a complete stop among the chaos that surrounded us both and just for a second blocked the dog’s path.
I never stopped moving, in that instant when the dog’s path was blocked by the car that had screeched to a halt to avoid hitting the car in front of it as the dog paused to change direction I reached over its back with my right arm, curling it under its belly as I looped my left arm under and around its neck.
I scooped up this 65 pound dog to my chest, and putting my faith in a higher power, I just kept moving with the forward momentum toward the safety of the opposite shoulder, deciding in that instant that we are going to make it together or we weren’t, but whatever happened, we were together.
We had made it safely to the highway shoulder and I quickly put the noose I made out of the leash over the dog’s head as I looked back at the highway and the confusion our mad dash had created. I was just about to tell this dog how lucky we were when I realized it wasn’t luck at all. I knew in my heart that Laredo had been our Guardian Angel and had watched over us both, allowing us to make it to the safety of the highway’s shoulder. In fact, had guided me to that place at that time so I could rescue this German Shepherd Dog. Some may think I’m crazy, but that’s what I believe.
“The Dumbest, Bravest Thing I’ve Seen”
I examined the dog and found it was a female. She was still not putting any weight on the left hind leg, though she was touching it to the ground now and not holding up as before. I couldn’t see any sign of trauma or deformity to her leg and she had no tags or collar. I stood up holding the leash and was trying to figure out how we were going to get back to where I had left my Jeep on the far side of the island. We would have to cross two of the three four lane highways, when out of nowhere a Georgia State Patrol Car pulled up on the shoulder with his emergency lights on.
The trooper got out and asked if we were both all right. I told him I was, but I was concerned about the dog’s leg. He explained that he had pulled up behind my Jeep to investigate what he thought was a disabled vehicle when he heard Gilligan’s horn blow and he had witnessed what had just happened.
He told me I shouldn’t have done what I did, but that he understood why I did it and that he and his wife had a large male German Shepherd Dog named Dakota. With that, he loaded us both into the back seat of his patrol car and drove us back to my Jeep. Once I had her in my Jeep, he asked me what I was going to do with her and I explained that I rescued animals and that I was going to take her straight to my vet and would make sure she got whatever she needed.
He said, “Mr. Hill that was either the dumbest or the bravest thing I have ever seen, I’m not sure which.” He shook my hand, then reached in the window of my Jeep patted her on the head and scratched behind her ears. He wished us both well and was on his way. Who says there’s never a cop around when you need one?
Page 2: Read more about her recovery >>
She Went Straight to the Veterinarian
I took her right to my vet’s office only to find that Dr. Orton my vet had himself undergone surgery earlier that week and was home recovering, but that Dr. Tarpley, another vet in his practice, could see us. They needed a name for this girl to put on her records and as I thought about the grass traffic island and the guy who blew his horn, the old tv show Gilligan’s Island came to mind. Even though as a kid I had a crush on Mary Ann, Ginger was the movie star, so her name is Ginger, since she is my Star.
Dr. Tarpley Examined Ginger and X-rayed her left leg and hip. It was determined that Ginger was spayed already, she was heartworm negative, and her age was estimated between two and three years old, so we decided on two and a half years old. Ginger had intestinal parasites and a urinary tract infection, so she was treated for both. She was scanned for a microchip but didn’t have one, so I had Dr. Tarpley implant one for me.
Ginger is eating well and is up to 75 pounds now and looking great. She was 63 pounds and very malnourished the day I rescued her. The X-rays came back and showed Ginger’s leg wasn’t injured but that she was suffering from moderate Hip Dysplasia in her left hip. It’s an all too common genetic disorder in German Shepherd dogs, as well as many other overbred large breed dogs.
It’s been a little more than 10 weeks since that day and Ginger has fit right in with my other rescued dogs and has bonded very strongly with me.
She loves to ride in the Jeep and will hardly let me leave the house without her. She is very intelligent and has learned to sit, stay, give her paw, lay down, roll over, high five all in very short order and she has been housebroken since the day I rescued her. Sugar Bear, another of my rescued dogs, has always been very jealous, never allowing another female dog to get on my bed, but she lets Ginger sleep on the bed with us every night.
Ginger was given medication for the intestinal parasites and they are all gone now. She was put on antibiotics for the urinary tract infection, which is all cleared up as well, and Dr Orton says she is now at a good weight. Ginger is doing fine on the medication for her Hip Dysplasia, walking well, supporting weight with the affected leg and even running and playing with the other dogs with no signs of discomfort. Outside she doesn’t leave my side.
I love Ginger very much as I do all my fur kids, though no one will ever replace my dog Laredo, though Ginger has helped fill the hole left in my heart from Laredo’s loss. I consider Ginger to be a special needs dog due to the Hip Dysplasia and as such she will remain as a permanent member of my family for the rest of her natural life; she has found her forever home.
I have seven here right now, and all are rescues. Ranger the 4-week-old puppy who I found late one night in a parking lot dying of Parvo Virus, is now over 7 months old, healthy and happy. His survival was truly a miracle and in a large part due to Dr. Orton’s skill and dedication. He will be going to his forever home with Dr. Orton my vet along with his wife and two young sons in June when the boys get out of school for the summer. I have one other I’m going to adopt when the right forever home presents itself. Then, including Ginger, I will be back at five until the next rescue comes along.
I typed this story on my laptop while surrounded by the unconditional love of seven of the best friends a man could ask for. See more photos of Ginger here.
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