A dog named Ruger heroically saved his owner, an Alabama man named Zackary Pate, from being attacked by a Copperhead snake.
Pate, a Tuscaloosa resident, was taking an afternoon walk around the lake with Ruger, his 18-month-old Cane Corso dog, WBMA-LD reported. Then, Pate felt Ruger biting at his leg.
“He has never bitten me beside playing,” Pate wrote in a Facebook post which has since been shared over 45,000 times. “He became pretty aggressive nipping at me then wrapped my leg and his dew claws really dig in I turned to scold him and he ran around me like trying to avoid me.”
When Pate looked down, he saw something in Ruger’s mouth. At first, he assumed it was a stick, since Ruger often plays with sticks. However, he soon realized the “stick” was actually a Copperhead, a venomous brown snake.
Ruger smashed the snake against a log and let it go. Pate wasn’t sure if the snake was alive or not after that. So, he picked up a stick and clobbered the serpent to death.
Immediately after, Pate felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for his dog’s actions. His dog had saved his life, or at least saved him from a trip to the hospital.
“I sat on the ground and just held him and tried to figure out why my dog loved me so much to jump in front of me to protect me,” Pate told the aforementioned news station. “Literally almost filled my eyes with tears knowing he risked his life to save me.”
If the snake had bitten him, Pate would’ve had to run about 250 yards to his truck. Running, Pate said, could’ve made the snake’s venom travel even more quickly through his body.
“This guy is by far my guardian. Best dog ever award goes to this guy.” Pate wrote in his Facebook post. “Thankful for my best friend.”
“It really does give meaning as to why ‘dog’ is ‘God’ spelled backward,” Pate told WVTM.
A Copperhead’s venom is mild compared to other deadlier snakes. It generally won’t kill humans. Their bites often cause severe swelling, pain and can damage local tissue. But if a human visits the hospital after being bit, they’ll likely survive.
Its venom can be lethal to a dog, however, depending on the animals’ sizes, veterinarian Dr. Henri Bianucci wrote in The Post and Courier.
Copperheads are usually non-aggressive. So if they attack, it’s likely in response to a dog attacking first or accidentally stepping on the snake, Bianucci said.
“The location of the bite, the number of bites, and how effectively the venom is delivered, are the variables that determine how serious a bite will be,” he added. But if a person gets their dog to a vet quickly, it’s likely the animal can survive.
Ruger is just one of several heroic dogs to make headlines for saving their owners. In June, a dog named Marley saved its owner from a potentially deadly rattlesnake bite.
In February, a dog named Ash helped keep his owner warm and alive for seven days when his owner became injured and stranded in the snowy Italian Alps.
Newsweek contacted the Cane Corso Association of America for comment.