Hero dog saves Marin hiker from rattlesnake

June 21st, 2013
Posted by | Posted in Dog behavior 794 views

ShakiraA hero dog saved a hiker from stepping on a rattlesnake — and likely a devastating bite — on a trek Sunday at Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin.

For Father’s Day, Diane Castañaon was out on a hike with her husband, John Forsyth of San Francisco. They picked the Matt Davis Trail out of Pantoll on the west slopes Mount Tam.

About a quarter mile from the trailhead, their dog, Mighty Shakira, a 13-month-old Anatolian Shepherd, led the way, leashed and on point, three feet ahead of Diane.

“Shakira suddenly jumped backwards and went immediately into a stiff alert posture with her tail and ears up,” Forsyth said. “She kept backing up into my wife and would not let her pass. My wife looked over Shakira’s shoulder and spotted this snake right on the trail exactly where she was planning her next foot strike.”

The behavior of both the dog and the hikers kept the snake from taking a defensive, strike position, he recounted.

“Shakira did not bark or growl,” Forsyth said. “She kept the snake from coiling and going on the offensive. By stopping my wife in her tracks, she prevented her from the danger. ”

In turn, Forsyth said he pulled Shakira back, inspected the snake and took a photo. “I saw the rattles on the end of the tail.” He then tossed a few small rocks at the tail and the snake slithered off into the grass, “rattling as it left.”

The Matt Davis Trail (and adjoining Coastal Trail) is routed from Mountain Home to Stinson Beach, with a great trailhead en route at Pantoll. About a quarter mile east from Pantoll, amid an oak forest, is an area commons for lizards and snakes, including the rattler.

Forsyth said he and his wife never saw the snake until Shakira kept them from stepping on it.

“Shakira saved my wife from what could have been a disastrous encounter,” Forsyth said. “The rest of the hike, Shakira took it very slow and was constantly on alert. She refused to allow anyone to get in front of her on the trail.”

The dog not only had the instincts to protects its masters, but itself.

Rattlesnake bites are 25 times more fatal for dogs than they are for people. All dogs that hike in parks or live in areas with rattlesnakes should be inoculated on a schedule with a rattlesnake vaccine. It costs about $30 (some vets might try for more). The vaccine delays the effects of a bite, reduces the severity and helps the dog recover more quickly. Even with the vaccination, your dog, if bitten by a rattler, should be taken to your vet for evaluation and possibly more treatment.

Shakira started hiking with the family at five months old, Forsyth said. As an Anatolian Shepherd, she showed leadership skills right off. ”When she was 10 months old she began using a dog pack that carried water and a First-Aid kit.”

“I have learned that Shakira’s instincts guided her to protect us from a dangerous situation as opposed to confronting and engaging the danger,” Forsyth said. ”We are very proud of her and grateful she is part of the family.”

~ Courtesy of SF Gate

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