The 64-year-old man was saved in part by his dog, Kelsey, who kept his owner warm and alert by lying on his body and licking his face and hands until help arrived, Today reports.
“He has marks on his arms from her pawing at him when he was losing consciousness,” said the man’s daughter, Jenny. “It was like, she knew that he had to stay awake because if he fell asleep he wouldn’t wake up again.”
On New Year’s Eve, Bob had been watching a football game inside his farmhouse when he decided to get another log for his fireplace. He went outside around 10:30 p.m. in slippers, long johns and a long-sleeved shirt.
He slipped on some icy steps and landed on his back on the frozen, snow-covered ground.
He knew right away he had broken something because he couldn’t move anything except his elbows, he told his family later.
Fortunately, Bob had his dog Kelsey with him. The 70-pound golden retriever lay on top of his chest and stomach and licked him repeatedly. Doctors believe the dog helped prevent her owner from getting frostbite.
Bob, who lives on a 40-acre farm, tried yelling for help but his home sits about 50 yards away from the road and about a quarter-mile to each neighbor beside him. His wife was away with her dementia-stricken parents, for whom she is their primary caretaker.
Kelsey barked throughout the episode, “but she’s a barker anyway,” so few would have paid attention if they heard, Jenny said.
Bob believed he stayed conscious until an hour before a neighbor came by the next day around 6:30 pm to collect some chicken eggs Bob had offered.
“The timing was incredible,” Jenny said. Also working on his side was the New Year’s Day weather, which was sunny and in the low 30s.
Bob was taken to a hospital and treated for hypothermia and irregular heart rhythm. He had surgery to repair two herniated discs that compressed his spinal cord and resulted in paralysis. But a day after surgery, he shocked everyone when he began moving his arms and legs.
“He was very fortunate to have survived the circumstance of being in cold weather and having a warm body sustain him for that period of time,” said his neurosurgeon Dr. Chaim Colen, who noted Bob’s pinched spinal cord could have cut off his breathing.
“He has a strong and a very positive personality and that’s what I like. A lot of people quickly end up in despair, and that’s very tragic. Maintaining that positivity is very important.”
Earlier this week, Bob was transported by ambulance from the hospital to a rehabilitation center. He’s since taken about 60 steps with a walker and is learning how to climb stairs and rebuild his strength.
In the meantime, Jenny said everyone is treating their smart dog Kelsey like the hero she is.
“She is so smart. We’ve always talked about how smart she is, from the day we got her,” she said. “She goes everywhere with my dad. She’s the sweetest little love bug.”