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Several years ago I founded the SAD-SAC foundation, a rescue that serves pit bull-type dogs. In August, I rescued my sixth. Oreo is a 3-year-old, black-and-white spayed female who is quite skittish around new people, but she seemed to be progressing quite well at my house.
One morning, we were playing fetch and had been chasing each other for a good hour. I sat down in a lawn chair in the backyard to take a break. Oreo sat next to me as I petted her. She soon became bored and got up, slowly making her way back to the house. She had made it halfway up the stairs to the second story deck when she suddenly stopped and turned to look at me. She began to growl loudly and show her teeth. She turned and ran down the stairs and ran full speed toward me, showing her teeth and growling all the way.
I held my hands out with thumbs extended hoping to catch her by the collar if she lunged at me. I was afraid she was going to bite me. Without breaking stride she leaped at me, still eight to 10 feet away. She fell short and landed between my legs, toppling me and the chair over backward. I quickly rolled over and sprung to my feet. What I saw next shocked me. I was suddenly scared for Oreo’s life, not mine. In Oreo’s mouth there was a 3-foot water moccasin about as thick as a soda can! She had caught it around the neck just behind its head, and its mouth was snapping and swaying side to side trying to bite her.
I screamed at her to drop the snake but she wouldn’t. I grabbed the snake’s body and started pulling it away from her. The snake’s body finally ripped away from its neck, and I tossed it on the ground. Oreo dropped the head and went after the body. The head was biting air; I grabbed a nearby shovel and scooped it up and threw it into the canal behind my house.
I checked Oreo for bites, and she had none. With tears in my eyes, I fell to my knees and hugged and kissed her over and over again.
Looking back, I realized that even though I’d been rescuing “pit bulls” for a while, I still harbored some of the same fears some of the public has about them. Oreo did all the right things, and I did everything wrong. Yelling at her to drop the snake was stupid. Had she done so, the snake would have surely bitten her. The worst thing I did was doubt her. What I thought was an attack proved to be a selfless act of heroism without thought for her own safety.
Oreo truly saved my life that day! No reward would be great enough for what she did. I am not her master, and Oreo is not my dog. We are both individuals whose paths crossed one day, and we became loving and loyal friends. I am humbled in her presence. Thank you for saving my life, baby girl!
Editor’s note: While we’re happy that Bailey and Oreo survived this frightening incident, and Bailey is confident that he correctly identified the species of the snake, our wildlife experts note that many people mistake the venomous cottonmouth for the nonvenomous Northern water snake. Clearly Oreo is no herpetology expert and was acting instinctively, but if there’s one group of animals that’s vilified more often than “pit bulls,” it’s probably snakes. Remember, most encounters with snakes can be avoided—to the betterment of snakes, humans, and dogs.
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