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20 January 2017

How One Man’s Beloved Dog Saved his Life in Freezing Conditions

Kelsey (from left), Dr Eric Basmaji, Bob & Dr Chaim Colen   - Img: MvLaren Northern Michigan Hospital
Winter, for all the joy and festivities it brings, also carries along with it a great amount of perils; hazardous roads and footpaths make keeping your footing a challenging task, bitter conditions threaten to freeze you to the spot and countless medical conditions are worsened by its cumulative effects.

You would think then, given all that, that 24 hours lying in the snow with a broken neck would be the end of you; in most cases, it probably would. However, this was not the case for one Michigan resident, named only as Bob.

On New Year’s Eve, Bob made his usual trip outside to collect some firewood. Expecting to only walk a matter of a few metres, Bob was donning just his long johns, a shirt and slippers; not exactly ideal attire to face temperatures of around -4°C.

Here, things took a drastic turn for the worse as Bob slipped and fell, breaking his neck in the process. He was stuck, lying in the cold snow, unable to move in temperatures far below zero. Night was closing in fast and his neighbours were too distant to hear his cries for help. Fortunately for Bob, someone was nearby to offer some assistance; namely his five-year-old Golden Retriever, Kelsey. The devoted dog did not leave Bob alone from then until his time of rescue, lying atop him in order to share body heat and licking his face to ensure he retained consciousness.

Speaking to Petoskey News, Bob recalled his ordeal:

Img: McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital
“I was screaming for help but my nearest neighbour is about a quarter mile away and it was 10:30pm, but my Kelsey came. She kept barking for help but never left my side. She kept me warm and alert. I knew I had to persevere through this and that it was my choice to stay alive.

“By morning my voice was gone and I couldn’t yell for help, but Kelsey didn’t stop barking.

“She was letting out this screeching howl that alerted my neighbour. He found me at 6:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day.”

Bear in mind now that the average internal body temperature is 37°C, and hypothermia occurs when this temperature drops below 35°C; Bob arrived at hospital with a core temperature just below 21°C. Simply put, his survival, let alone his complete recovery, seems somewhat illogical.

“I was surprised to find out that I didn’t have any frost bite,” said Bob, “I am sure it was because of Kelsey’s determination to keep me warm and safe.”

Dr Chaim Colen, the Neurosurgeon responsible for Bob during his stay at McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital, suggests that the combination of the cold and his snowy ‘bed’ may have actually helped Bob to recover from the injury to his spinal cord, but cannot deny that, without Kelsey’s help, the cold would likely have killed him.

“After the surgery, miraculously, he started to move his extremities with greater strength,” stated Dr Colen, “Most people with spinal cord injuries, they don’t move. It’s tragic and when it’s done, it’s done. I don’t know if it was the cold temperatures that may have helped him or the fact he was laying down on the snow the way he was.

“I think animals can help and his dog really kept him alive and really helped him, he was very fortunate.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.