The Bravest Dog

The Bravest Dog

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

The Bravest Dog

Lisa smiled, watching from the back door as her husband, Mike, disappeared into the woods surrounding their Tennessee home with Sadie, his two-year-old English setter, bounding at his side.

Mike had always wanted a dog of his own, and the year before, Lisa’s father had rescued Sadie from a neglectful owner and brought her to them. At first she was pitifully timid and mistrustful. She’d cower and whimper at any sudden moves in her direction, yelp and run at the sound of loud noises.

But Lisa had combed the tangles out of the long hair of her white-and-black-spotted coat and Mike had spent hours gently coaxing and playing with her, winning her trust. With lots of attention and TLC, Sadie grew into a happy, adoring pet who shadowed Mike everywhere.

Lisa’s dad had said it right from the beginning: “If you’re good to this dog, she’ll be good to you.” And this morning Sadie would prove the power of that bond beyond all question. . . .

Sadie led theway along the familiar trail, the one she and Mike tramped every morning and evening. Sometimes she’d flush birds from the bushes, then sit watching, mesmerized, as they soared into the sky. This always amused Mike. Occasionally, she’d dive into the underbrush, lured by an interesting scent. But she’d always come when Mike called or blew his coach’s whistle.

She’s such a good dog, Mike thought, picturing her romping with his three-year-old son, Kyle, and two-year-old daughter, Chelsea. She was always gentle, even patiently submitting to their inadvertent ear-tugging and tail-pulling.

They’d walked about a third of a mile, and Sadie was off exploring when Mike suddenly felt a sharp pain in his wrist. He’d experienced similar aches recently but shrugged them off when they quickly disappeared. Probably bursitis, he’d thought. This time, however, the burning pain began to shoot up his arm like wildfire, and a wave of nausea swept over him. What’s going on? he wondered nervously, deciding: I’d better turn back.

But as he fumbled for the whistle around his neck to call Sadie, an excruciating pain slammed into his chest as though he’d been hit with an anvil. He dropped to his knees, gasping for breath. Desperate, he gave the whistle a short blow—all he could manage before collapsing facedown on the ground. With pain searing through his chest like a burning knife, and his left arm numb, he had a terrifying thought: I’m having a heart attack—and I’m only thirty-six!

Suddenly, he felt Sadie at his side, nudging him gently with a soft, wet nose. Sensing that Mike was in trouble, she whined softly and gazed at Mike with worried eyes that seemed to ask, What’s wrong?

Mike realized Sadie was his only chance. He knew she’d never leave his side to go for help, even if he tried to send her. And Lisa wouldn’t miss them for at least an hour—maybe more. Maybe if I hang onto her, she can drag me close enough to call for help, he thought. But can she do it? Will she? he worried. With his last ounce of strength, he reached out and grabbed Sadie’s collar with his good arm. “Home, girl!” he urged.

Sadie sensed it was up to her. Slowly the 45-pound dog started to drag the 180-pound man back down the rough trail. Groaning with pain, Mike struggled to hang on. He thought of Lisa waiting at home. Lisa, whom he’d met at work when he’d moved from California six years before. Beautiful and bright Lisa, who’d quickly captured his heart with her room-lighting smile and gentle soul. He recalled their wedding day, when he’d told her, “You’ve made me the proudest man in the world.” And that feeling only intensified during their time together. Not enough time! Mike thought now. We have our whole lives ahead of us.

Sadie struggled and tugged, staggering beneath the burden of Mike’s weight as it strained her muscles. As she dragged Mike over roots and rocks, his agony grew. The viselike pain constricted his chest as he thought I’ll never make it.

Images of his children floated in his mind: little Chelsea toddling around the house clutching her precious Raggedy Ann doll. And Kyle, his constant shadow, helping Daddy work on his truck and playing catch in the yard.

I can’t die, Mike told himself. My family needs me!

Suddenly, another picture popped into his mind. The card with the family photo they’d sent out last Christmas, with Chelsea on Lisa’s lap and Kyle on his, and sitting pretty in front—Sadie, upon whose furry shouldersMike’s life now depended. But by that point he was starting to fade in and out of consciousness. Each time blackness descended and Sadie felt his fingers loosen their grip on her collar, she would stop and lick his face and whine urgently until his eyes flickered open again.

Somehow Mike managed to grasp her collar again and hang on, in spite of the crushing pain in his chest as Sadie set out once more. Rocks and vines snagged and tore at his clothes as Sadie continued to pull him over the rough terrain, pausing only occasionally as she panted to catch her breath, marshaling her strength before plowing on.

Then she encountered an even greater test: a rolling hill. One which she easily bounded up and down most days— when she wasn’t dragging a weight four times her size! Sadie paused for an instant, summoning her strength.

“You can do it, girl!” Mike urged.

With a lick of his face, Sadie set herself again and began the torturous climb, digging in her paws and straining with all her might, battling for every inch, growling with the effort.

“That’s it, Sadie!” Mike encouraged as she slowly dragged him up the slope, foot by agonizing foot, until finally they reached the top—and then slipped down the other side.

Mike spotted his neighbor’s house, but by now he was too weak and short of breath to call for help. That’s the last thing I’m ever going to see, he thought, feeling unconsciousness slipping over him.

But somehow his fingers still clutched Sadie’s collar. And she staggered stubbornly on and on, dragging Mike’s unconscious dead weight, refusing to stop—until finally she tugged him through the opening in the fence, across the backyard and to the foot of the steps leading to the Millers’ porch.

Once there, she barked and howled like never before.

Hearing the noise, Lisa wondered what was going on. She opened the back door and gasped, spotting her husband crumpled on the ground with Sadie hovering over him.

“Mike! What’s wrong?” she screamed, racing to his side.

Mike’s eyes blinked open. “My heart, I think,” hemoaned.

Dear God! she panicked, rushing to the phone to call 911, then dashing back to Mike.

While they waited for the ambulance, Mike croaked: “Sadie saved me. She dragged me home from the woods.”

Lisa stared in disbelief at the panting dog who still refused to leave Mike’s side. Then, still gripping Mike’s hand, she threw her other arm around Sadie, pulled her close and choked, “Good girl, Sadie.”

At the hospital, doctors discovered Mike had suffered a massive heart attack and performed emergency triple-bypass surgery. “You’re going to be fine, but you’re lucky to be alive,” doctors told him afterward. Mike knew who to thank.

And he did. When he got home a week later, as Sadie bounced around him, overjoyed to see him, Mike produced a bag of bones from the butcher. “Treats for my hero,” he said, hugging her.

Today Mike is fully recovered. He and his dog still walk together, and Mike spends many hours pitching sticks that Sadie happily retrieves. He can’t do enough for her, knowing that if Sadie hadn’t been with him, he wouldn’t have made it home alive.

Lisa remains amazed that Sadie was able to drag Mike all the way back to the house by herself. She says, “I guess it just shows how strong the power of love really is.”

Sherry Cremona-Van Der Elst
Previously appeared in Woman’s World Magazine

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners