This Brave Dog Saved Owner’s Life, Twice

Stories of our beloved canine species gleaned from 20 years as an ER Vet

Photo by Jaclyn Clark on Unsplash

The Gunshot wound

Here’s the scene:

Busy city veterinary emergency room, short on space, packed with staff, many animals waiting to be seen for what ails them. Standard organized chaos in the ER.

Another triage is called. Business as usual. This one needs a gurney — so a couple of technicians head out to the parking lot with a gurney. They return with a sleek,shiny,dark brown, medium-build pit bull, sitting sternally on the gurney as if she is riding on a parade float, after having just been shot in the face.


Shot in the face. With a gun.

‘Cathy’ this one is here because she was shot in the face?

Yup. She’s about 4 years old, Female, spayed. She lives at the encampment near the Harbor — you know the one?

Yeh. Who shot her? Cops? (That’s how it usually goes — police roll up to knock on a house/door/tent somewhere and get charged by vicious appearing dogs and then the dog gets shot.)

No. Actually, this dog lives at the encampment with her owner — and she was protecting her owner. Someone tried to shoot him, and she ran interference, took the bullet for her owner.

Uh. Wow. ok.

Cathy tolerates a cursory examination on the gurney, despite being presumably scared shitless, in shock, and now surrounded by strangers prodding her every orifice, including the bullet wound.

Vitals are obtained, physical examination performed.

The gunshot exit wound is located on her left neck area and is bleeding profusely. There is a large pocket of blood accumulating beneath the entry wound. This is a through and through wound, with the entry wound being inside of her lower jaw/mouth. She’s fairly head shy, maybe that’s always her way or maybe that’s because she just got shot in the fucking face. Who knows. After a few gingerly delicate looks inside of her mouth, I can see that a few incisors along her mandible have been blown away by the entry wound, but she looks otherwise not too shabby, considering.

She was shot in the face/mouth and the bullet came out of her neck, basically.

Sounds weird, but she was moving — maybe charging a person, who knows what position she was in, where the gun was — I mean, I have a million other quesitons but my job is no fucking CSI dog-tective, it’s veterinarian.

So while I’d love to be Cathy’s fucking biographer, I also need to be the person who deals with her physical trauma GSW.


I inserted a tampon into the exit wound to stop the bleeding, at least temporarily. Tampons are clean, wrapped, sterile might be a step too far but when you gotta stop bleeding from a pitbull’s neck — a tampon is absorbent and the correct shape and size to lodge into a bullet wound and expand as it takes on blood volume and applies pressure.

If you’ve ever played sports, you probably recognize the benefit of a tampon in a nosebleed situation. View tampon in gunshot wounds as a more creative application, ok?

So — The dog saved the owner.

The owner lives in a homeless encampment. There are many encampments all over our city — as homelessness and houselessness is real, and the rents in our city grew more and more ridiculous. Encampments cropped up in various locations, with different demographics, unwritten rules, and vibes.

I don’t know why someone would want to shoot Cathy’s owner — he seemed like a nice enough guy. But after all, it’s none of my goddamn business.

Like many folks living in an encampment — Cathy’s owner has exactly zero spare dollars to spend on her medical care. Obviously, she has a bullet entry and exit wound, she’d arrived in shock, and would be best treated in the hospital with analgesics, fluids, and NSAIDs. But this costs money.

Enter a non-profit organization who helps dogs in the community encampments whose owners cannot afford it! Boom! Angels.

These folks may have been summoned, or may have arrived with the dog. It’s unclear to me how they became aware that Cathy needed financial assistance for her medical care. But they did. And once Cathy was discharged from the hospital and was sent back home to the encampment — they followed up and checked on her to make sure she was doing ok.

She was, she did.

For another year.

That dog got shot in the face protecting her owner’s life, and shook it off like it was no big deal.

That, right here folks, is a fucking pitbull for ya..taking a bullet to the face is NBD.

The stab wounds

Here’s the Scene:

Deja motherfucking vu.

Dog triaged into the ER after being stabbed multiple times. This dog arrives by walking in. She looks familiar.

She is a very attractive, sleek, dark dark brown, shiny pit bull.

What’s the deal with this one?

This is Cathy.

Oh shit, Cathy who was shot in the face?

Yes. Cathy was stabbed multiple times today…..

lemme guess: protecting her owner again. We say it in unison.

This time, the story goes that someone attacked Cathy’s owner with a knife, so Cathy jumped in to protect him — as is her nature and her gift.

Cathy had stab wounds on her right dorsal thorax and left cranial ventral thorax. Again, she appeared mildly anxious but otherwise unphased by the trauma. She had recovered completely from her gunshot wound with nothing to appreciate but a few missing baby-corn teeth on her bottom jaw, and a scar on her left neck.

The stab wounds — one on the right and one on the left — were deep, and the one on the right had an audible sucking sound every time she breathed. With stab wounds, particularly those to the chest — ya gotta figure out how deep the knife went and then decide what to do about it from there. Is a lung lacerated? Punctured? Or is the wound so shallow that it didn’t even enter the thoracic cavity?

Cathy’s guardian financial angels showed up to pay the bill and discuss what needed to happen to fix up Cathy this time.

Cathy’s wounds did penetrate into the thoracic cavity, on both sides, but were such that they could be closed without needing to tap her chest to relieve trapped air or blood.

She was sedated and her wounds were fixed up — on a budget friendly plan that didn’t involve the whole “cadillac” of care that it could have.

True to form, Cathy tolerated this like a champ, and walked out the door the next day to go back to her home at the encampment.

Months later:

I later learned that Cathy’s owner died.

He was (finally) shot and killed. The two times that Cathy had saved him had both been real attempts on his life, and the last time, Cathy hadn’t been able to save him.

We see lots of gunshots wounds in the veterinary ER — and many of them fall into two categories: accidental and police-associated.

It is unusual to see an animal with a gunshot wound sustained while actively saving the owner’s life.

I feel fortunate that I was able to meet and help this fine creature.

RIP Cathy’s owner — I know you loved the shit out of Cathy.



Career veterinarian pivoting. I write about animals, queers, adoption, alcohol free life, and art. Inquiries may be directed to

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Emily Roawr

Career veterinarian pivoting. I write about animals, queers, adoption, alcohol free life, and art. Inquiries may be directed to