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Dog who saved owner earns canine award

by on August 07, 2014 11:00 AM

SMICKSBURG — A 30-pound Australian shepherd dog who last summer fought a black bear 10 times her size and saved her North Mahoning Township owner has won an American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence.

The awards honor five inspirational dogs that made significant contributions to their communities and exemplify the power of the human-canine bond.

On Aug. 4, 2013, Connie Dilts started off from her dairy farm for her routine morning walk along Whitaker Road with Boomer and a younger Aussie, Reina. The dogs had run a short distance ahead of Dilts when a bear came out of the woods between Dilts and the dogs.

In an encounter with humans, bears usually turn tail and run. But Dilts said the bear that morning came straight at her and in seconds was on top of her.

“It stood up to slice me, to swat at me. I got slashed on my wrist and I fell back, or I would have been sliced to the bone,” Dilts said in a Gazette story days after the attack. “Then it lunged to bite me in my face, and I fell back again and it got me in the shoulder. … I felt the breath on my face. It flung me, like I was nothing, like I was a sack of potatoes. And I landed so hard I ripped the seat of my pants. And it all happened so fast, in seconds.”

Dilts struggled to her feet, blurted out an attack command and Boomer jumped on the bear.

“She knew I was in trouble, she leapt on the bear, onto its side, its back, neck and shoulder, and she started biting it. Like a cat. She was hanging on it like a cat,” Dilts said.

The bear tried to swat Boomer and tried to shake the dog off its fur but the Aussie held on.

“She was giving her life for me,” Dilts said. “She didn’t care anything for herself. … She probably did it like 15 times, again and again and again. And she must have landed (a bite on) an ear or the nose, something that really hurt, because the bear let out a yelp, a bad sound. It tossed her to the ground, and then it turned and ran down through the corn field.”

The bear disappeared with Boomer in pursuit. She returned a short time later and her only apparent battle scar was a scrape on her nose.

Dilts was treated at Indiana Regional Medical Center for her cuts and scrapes and went through a battery of injections in case the bear was rabid.

“We’re doing much better,” Dilts said from her home this morning, although Boomer lost weight and some of her hair in the months after the attack.

“I think, emotionally, it changed her,” Dilts said of Boomer. For weeks after the bear attack, the dog refused to leave Dilts, and Boomer after the tussle with the bear also appeared afraid of storms.

But Dilts and her dogs gradually grew comfortable enough to resume their morning walks. And they’ve not bumped into any more bears.

“I’m being more alert,” Dilts said.

The AKC Humane Fund awards are presented in five categories: Exemplary Companion, Uniformed Service K-9, Search and Rescue, Service and Therapy dog.

In addition to Boomer as the recipient of the Exemplary Companion award, the other recipients are a heroic K-9 that took a bullet in the line of duty, an international search and rescue traveler, a blind therapy dog bringing comfort to abused children and ACE’s first mixed breed winner, a service dog to a U.S. veteran raising awareness of the profound impact service dogs can have on trauma survivors.

“Dogs impact our lives every day in immeasurable ways, and with so many wonderful ACE nomination stories, it’s a difficult choice to select only one recipient in each category,” said AKC spokeswoman Gina DiNardo. “These five dogs have gone above and beyond, touching the lives of individuals and communities across the country. We’re thrilled to recognize their achievements with an ACE award.”

All of the ACE recipients will receive $1,000 to be awarded to a pet-related charity of their choice, a one-year pet insurance policy from Pet Partners Inc. and an engraved sterling silver medallion to be presented at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 13.

PHOTO: Connie Dilts posed with Boomer in this photo from August 2013.



Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is rwells@indianagazette.net.
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