By R.J. Scarelli Jr.
Dog helps rescue unconscious neighbor on frigid night
A dog is a loyal best friend.
That sentiment could not be anymore true for the friendship between Methuen’s Steve Osgood and Dakota, the 5-year-old male Yellow Lab who saved his life.
At 11pm on Christmas Eve, Steve took a nasty fall at his residence along Washington Street that rendered him unconscious until morning.
“I was walking up to my home when I suddenly slipped on a patch of ice on the sidewalk. That was when I lost my balance and landed head-first into the side of the building,” recalled Steve.
If that were not scary enough, Steve’s fall happened during a flash freeze. The temperature fell to 3 degrees, which felt like minus-13 degrees. Unable to keep himself warm, Steve developed hypothermia and frostbite to his hands and knees.
He was discovered by Dakota in the morning, after the dog’s owners Cathy and John-Michael DiGaetano let him outside. Cathy called 911 seconds after recognizing Steve lying on the ground.
“Dakota gets up early every morning,” said Cathy. “Around 4:30, I got ready and took him outside. Only this time, I couldn’t get him to come back in. He kept running towards the fence in the yard while barking and scratching his paws against it. That’s when I went over to see what he was looking at and saw Steve’s body just lying there. EMTs even told me if Steve were out there a couple more hours, he probably wouldn’t have made it because of the hypothermia to his head.”
However, before any assistance arrived, John-Michael returned to their home for something to cover Steve.
“I went back inside and ended up grabbing Dakota’s blanket and wrapped him in it. Just so he knew he had his savior and best friend with him the whole time,” said Steve.
Firefighters Sean Bonneau, John Bazdenes and Lt. Steve Moriarty arrived on the scene three minutes after the 911 call.
When discussing the scene, Bonneau described it as being grievous and urgent.
“There was blood on his front door. I think he might’ve been scraping at it in an attempt to pull himself up,” said Bonneau. “He was in critical condition when we saw him. He had a hematoma (a swelling of clotted blood) and laceration on his head. I told the guys that we should get the key to his place so we could bring him inside in an attempt to warm his body up.”
“The key was discovered in a bush right next to the building. While in his home, we had started cutting off his clothes which were frozen onto him, throwing blankets on him, warming his arms and legs. Just trying to get any sort of circulation back into his body,” Bonneau said.
Methuen EMTs Chris Fritschy and John Jannini arrived as the three firefighters were loading Steve into the ambulance. His chance of survival, Bonneau admitted, looked pretty bleak.
“If the neighbors never let the dog out when they did, (Steve) probably wouldn’t have made it. No questions asked, the dog saved him,” said Bonneau.
Steve was transported to Lawrence General Hospital where he spent a month and then another week of rehabilitation at Lowell’s Compass Home Care and Rehab Center.
Dakota, his rescuer, couldn’t wait for his friend to return home so he could welcome Steve with open paws.
Recalled Steve, “When I got home from rehab, Dakota was outside with Cathy, waiting to greet me.”
Although, he was unlikely to survive the night, thanks to the heroic and combined efforts of Dakota, Cathy, John-Michael, and the Methuen Fire Department, Steve has mostly recovered.
Although not at 100 percent yet, he profoundly credits his life’s rescue to his furry best friend.