There is a lucky eleven-year-old boy in Vancouver, British Columbia, who learned a new appreciation for man’s best friend last week.
Austin Forman was assigned the job of bringing in firewood from outside of his family’s home, some distance northeast of Vancouver. His family’s eighteen-month old Golden Retriever, Angel, went at his side. The routine chore was just that, routine, until on his way to the woodpile on Saturday, January 2, a cougar charged Austin.
“I was really scared. At first, I didn’t know it was a cougar. I thought it was another dog,” Austin told CTV News on January 3. “As soon as it went underneath the light, I saw that it was a cougar. I knew at that moment, I had to go inside.”
Angel engaged the cougar before it could reach the boy. The cougar was larger than Angel.
Austin used the time Angel bought him to run inside and tell his mother what was happening. In the house, Austin was screaming, “A cougar is eating Angel!”
At first Austin’s mother, Sherri Forman, could not understand what her son was saying. She had to get him to repeat himself several times before she understood what was going on. When she understood, Forman looked out the window; she could not see Angel or the cougar from there, but she said she could hear the dog whimpering.
“To feel so helpless, I knew I couldn’t do anything,” she said.
Forman called first her father-in-law, and then on his advice, she called 9-1-1. RCMP Const. Chad Gravelle was on the scene within a minute of the call, as he had already been in the area. The Formans were thankful for his quick reaction time.
The cougar was chewing on Angel’s neck when Gravelle found them under the porch, the dog still whining and struggling. Gravelle fired two shots at the cougar, but it did not halt its attack. Even after the officer closed and fired a third shot – the one which killed it – the cougar’s jaws were around the dog’s face.
A few moments later, Angel was able to get up. Angel has been recovering from puncture wounds and a swollen eye at a local animal hospital.
Austin had told his family before the attack how cute it was that Angel followed him everywhere. Austin’s mother has wondered if the dog knew something was up. Whether just puppy love or some other animal instinct, the family could not be more grateful.
The Forman family has remarked since this incident how aptly Angel was named, since she really has become their guardian angel.
Cougar attacks are still relatively uncommon, but with humans spreading further into cougar habitat and cougars wondering more and more frequently into suburbs and parks, the risk and visibility of this kind of attack has increased in recent years – both attacks on humans and attacks on pets have received some media attention. Austin Forman was lucky last week to have such a loyal dog, and Angel was lucky for the quick response by the police.