Service dog jumps between blind owner, bus

BREWSTER (Journal News) – When Bigo the service dog saw an oncoming mini school bus heading for Audrey Stone, the blind woman he was trained to guide, the golden retriever's protective instincts kicked in: He threw himself at the closest part of the vehicle he could.

Police photos show the result: fur stuck to the front driver's side wheel and in the middle of Michael Neuner Avenue, where the bus came to a stop after striking the pair.

The driver of the Brewster school bus, carrying two kindergartners to St. Lawrence O'Toole Childhood Learning Center, told police he didn't see the pair crossing they road as they made their way home at about 8:15 Monday morning.

But Bigo saw the bus coming and leapt into action.

Stone, 62, suffered a fractured right elbow, three broken ribs, a fractured ankle and a cut to her head in the accident, said Brewster Police Chief John Del Gardo. Bigo's leg was cut down to the bone, said Paul Schwartz, who manages the Xtra Mart gas station at the intersection and ran to the scene to help.

"I don't know if (the driver) thought (Stone) was going to move faster, but it looks like the dog tried to take most of the hit for her," said Schwartz, who lives in Mahopac.

When Schwartz reached the crash site Stone was bleeding from her head and complaining of hip pain.

"There were 15 EMTs and people all around her and the dog didn't want to leave her side," Schwartz said. "He was flopping over to her and she didn't want him to get away from her, either. She kept screaming, 'Where's Bigo? Where's Bigo? Where's Bigo?' We kept telling her he was fine."

Schwartz and one of the EMTs bandaged Bigo's right leg.

"The dog was being a good sport, really calm," Schwartz said. "He sat with me the whole time. He was limping as we put him on a big blanket on the sidewalk and it started to rain. He let us wrap up his leg without any problem. He wasn't barking or crying or yelping. But he kept pulling toward her. After she was put on a gurney and taken away, he stopped doing that. He seemed a little lost after she left."

There are rules against transporting animals in ambulances.

Schwartz said Stone, who lives on North Main Street not far from the accident site, was "very upset as she was getting in the ambulance that (Bigo) wasn't with her. After she left, we put him in the (Brewster Fire Department) truck and they took him to the vet."

A staff member at Middlebranch Veterinary in Patterson confirmed that Bigo was being treated there on Monday. Brewster Police Chief Del Gardo said later that the dog was undergoing surgery on its leg.


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