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Donors help save snake-bitten dog who shielded girl in Florida

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Haus, a German Shepherd, recovered from a snake bite at Blue Pearl in Tampa, Fla. today. When a venomous Eastern diamondback rattlesnake appeared in the backyard of a 7-year-old Florida girl, her German shepherd, Haus, came to her rescue, refusing to back down despite multiple snakebites.

TAMPA, Fla. » When a venomous Eastern diamondback rattlesnake appeared in the backyard of a 7-year-old girl, her German shepherd came to her rescue, refusing to back down even when the snake bit him three times.

In short, Haus is a hero.

“It shows you that a rescue dog, for us, paid it forward by protecting my family,” said Adam DeLuca of Tampa.

Now hundreds of donors are coming to the family’s rescue, quickly topping the goal of $15,000 today on a GoFundMe account to help pay for the antivenin needed to keep the dog alive. By this afternoon, $35,000 had been raised for the dog’s care.

Haus is still recovering in the Intensive Care Unit of Tampa’s Blue Pearl Emergency Veterinary and Specialty Hospital, and is being treated with anti-venom and painkillers, said Dr. John Gicking.

“Without the pain medication, he’s in pain. He’s responsive, he’s alert, and his leg is swollen and uncomfortable,” the doctor said.

Molly DeLuca’s grandmother was watching her play with the 2-year-old shepherd in their backyard when the dog suddenly jumped in front of the girl and reared up several times. It wasn’t clear what happened at first, but they could tell Haus was bleeding, and brought him to the vet.

When his leg was shaved, three bite marks could be seen — telltale signs of the rattlesnake.

The family lives near a state park that is a habitat for rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, and dangerous critters can slip under their fence from the wilderness, her father said.

The snake’s venom damaged the dog’s kidneys. Vets now expect a full recovery, but it won’t be cheap: Each day in the ICU costs between $1000 to $1500, and each vial of anti-venom costs $618. Haus is averaging 4 or 5 vials per day as the poison leaves his system.

A family friend started the fundraising effort. The response, said DeLuca, has been “overwhelming.”

Haus is expected to be hospitalized for another couple of days. The family plans to forward any unused donations to a local rescue organization.

The family adopted Haus just two months ago from a rescue organization, but they already had no doubt he would risk his life to save Molly or her four-year-old brother.

“He just exceeded our expectations all the way around,” said DeLuca. “Right away, the kids were hugging and loving on him, he always took it, he never did anything. Whenever anyone came to the door, he would start barking and try to be protective. He has just been an amazing dog. He’s the type of dog that when you want to go buy a dog, you pay thousands of dollars and that’s the dog you get. But we adopted him and got him for free.”

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  • I’ve known german shepherds that have done remarkable things for their families. Truly the best breed of dog, if not ruined by inbreeding or poor treatment.

  • Dogs, if treated humanely, really are man’s (or girl’s in this case) best friend. The bonds that they form with the human species are amazing.

  • 60 years ago, when I was a toddler living with my parents (young volunteers providing medical and legal help for the migrant workers that seasonally harvested sugar cane) near the Everglades in Florida, our brave spayed female Boxer named Major saved my life (she was named after a crusty older WAC nurse who saved my dad’s life during WW2; she was was a Major, but he never learned her name).

    Major (the Boxer) leaped between me and a pair of large Cottonmouth pit vipers that had found their way into our backyard garden from adjacent wild swamp lands. Major took at least five venomous strikes to her face and head in the process, but she bit off the heads of both serpents and saved me in the process.

    Sadly, Major didn’t survive her envenomation; she had a sudden, violent allergic reaction to the antivenom she was given, which at that time was derived from horse serum. She couldn’t be resuscitated.

    Veterinary medicine has made great advances since that time long ago. If treated with today’s antivenoms and ventilation technologies, Major probably would have survived. Alas, she died in 1956, long before veterinary medicine matched (or in some cases exceeded) advances in modern human medicine.

    Major’s death after enduring multiple snakebites in my defense profoundly affected my three-year-old psyche. I had nightmares for years, and still have them occasionally. Major had been my canine “nanny” and protector. Her loss was tremendously traumatic for me.

    Looking back, I realize that my decision to move to snake-free Hawai’i in my early adulthood probably was influenced by that early-childhood tragedy.

    Like Haus the brave German Shepherd Dog, Major the Boxer also was a hero. I will remember and love her until the end of my own life.

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