A man who broke his neck outdoors in freezing conditions survived lying in snow for nearly 24 hours thanks to Kelsey, his dog, who kept him warm through the night and barked for help.
The man from Michigan, named only as Bob, was alone when he left his farmhouse on New Year’s Eve to collect firewood.
Anticipating a journey of only several metres, Bob was wearing just long johns, a shirt and slippers when he went outside, despite the temperature being around -4C.
However, he slipped and broke his neck.
“I was screaming for help but my nearest neighbour is about a quarter mile away and it was 10.30 pm, but my Kelsey came,” said Bob.
Kelsey is Bob’s five-year-old Golden Retriever. She kept Bob warm by lying on top of top of him, and kept him awake by licking his hands and face.
Bob said: “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.”
Bob’s neighbour eventually discovered him after hearing Kelsey’s howls and called the emergency services. When Bob arrived in hospital, his core temperature was below 21C. Normal body temperature is 37C and hypothermia occurs when the body drops below 35C.
“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.”
And to the surprise of doctors, Bob made a quick initial recovery from his neck injury.
“After the surgery, miraculously, he started to move his extremities with greater strength,” said Chaim Colen, MD, Neurosurgeon at McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital.
“Most people with spinal cord injuries, they don’t move,” Dr Colen said. “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.”
He added: “I think animals can help and his dog really kept him alive and really helped him, he was very fortunate.”
However, Bob will still need to undergo extensive physiotherapy to regain his old strength and proper use of his limbs. However, he is expected to recover.
“I am so thankful for my two heroes,” Bob said. “Kelsey kept me warm, alert, and never stopped barking for help. Dr Colen saved my life and ability to move. They are truly heroes and I will be eternally grateful.”