By Terri Ferguson Smith / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
After being portrayed in movies as killers, the breed of dog known as Rottweilers are often misunderstood, and as with any dog, can be sweet, loving, protective family pets, defenders of the breed say. Jill Richardson of Newton County knew that even before her 125-pound, 2 1/2-year-old Rottweiler named Leia gave her an early Christmas present last month.
Richardson credits Leia with saving her life.
Richardson, 59, lives alone and just before 10 p.m. on Dec. 21, she was taking her small Pug, Juju, out for a potty break before going to bed. Leia, an outside dog, was nearby, as were Roxy, a 125-pound 8-year-old Great Pyrenees mix, and Rosco, a 75 pound Malamute mix, who is also about 2 1/2 years old.
"I went down the steps and my left foot turned on the bottom step. I went flying forward onto my driveway and hit my knee," Richardson said. "The first thing that happened was I heard a sound like a shotgun."
That was the sound of Richardson's knee shattering and her femur, the big bone in the upper leg, breaking. The knee was detached from her femur. She was face down on the ground wearing only a T-shirt and a thin bathrobe, unable to move and the temperature was expected to get in the mid-20s that night.
Leia came running over and started frantically licking her.
"I had trained my dog, when she was a puppy, to be a brace for me out in the yard," Richardson said.
A cancer survivor who lives alone, Richardson had trained Leia to help steady her because of occasional swelling in her left leg.
"I would tell her to stand and I would prop myself and get up," Richardson said.
Now, Richardson said, she put that training to the test. She feared she would die of exposure if she did not get inside the house.
"I said to Leia, 'Stand,'" Richardson said. "So I put my left hand on her back and my right hand on the concrete."
Using her right buttocks, Richardson managed to scoot, inch by inch, toward the steps with Leia steadying her by following "stand" and "forward" commands.
"We got to the step, I told her 'forward.' She went up two steps. I held on and got up the first step. We got up six steps and now we were on the deck."
She made it to the storm door and pulled it open.
"Now, I had never trained her to do this," Richardson said, "I kind of guided her to the door to hold the door open for me and I said, 'Stand.' She stood there."
Richardson pushed open the inner door and was inside. It had taken 45 minutes to scoot just a few feet.
She found her cell phone in her purse and called some friends who arrived a few minutes later. After debating whether to call an ambulance or attempt to take her to the hospital themselves, they decided to call an ambulance. Richardson was taken to Anderson Regional Medical Center where she underwent surgery and then rehabilitation until she was released Wednesday, Jan. 9.
Richardson says Leia is always gentle with her and she is sure that she would have died of exposure if Leia had not been there to help her into the house. In fact, an EMT who attended to her the night of the accident said that she likely would have died of exposure in a few hours.
When Richardson arrived home after weeks of being the hospital, the dogs were elated to see her, especially Leia.
"We got in and let her in the house," Richardson said. "She wouldn't take her eyes off me. She was just kissing me, kissing me, kissing me."
While Leia is still an outdoor dog, she has a few more indoor privileges now. Richardson says when she falls asleep in her chair, she awakes to find Leia just staring at her.
"She's very attentive to me," Richardson said.
She has no doubt that Leia's assistance is what saved her life.
"Without Leia, I wouldn't be here," Richardson said. "The way I feel about it is God was saying, 'You can come home to me or you can stay here' and Leia was saying to me, 'Stay here with me.' I chose life."