News | February 29, 2000

Dog Saves Four from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Who needs a personal gas monitor when you've got Shelby the German shepherd around?

The 45th Skippy Dog Hero of the Year is Shelby, a 7-year-old German Shepherd from Ely, IA, who saved the lives of two adults and two children by alerting them to dangerously high carbon monoxide levels in the home where they were sleeping.

On the evening of Dec. 13, 1999, after a long day of baking Christmas cookies, John and Janet Walderbach were awakened by the cries of their friends' two children, who were overnight guests. Everyone was suffering from terrible headaches and upset stomachs. As Janet was rocking the younger child to sleep, she passed out.

Shelby revived her by nudging her until she regained consciousness. The dog then went to wake John. Shelby continued to act anxious and would not leave their sides, as they tried to determine what was making them and the children feel so sick.

Thinking she might need a trip outdoors, John put her outside, where she began to bark, whine, and scratch at the door. She did not rest until John, Janet, and the children were safely outside the home.

Luckily, at the hospital, all four were successfully treated in hyperbolic chambers, which eliminated the carbon monoxide in their bodies, preventing any severe damage. Doctors remarked that they were very lucky to have made it out when they did. The house measured 280 ppm (parts per million) of carbon monoxide, a level at which death or severe long-term damages are imminent.

Shelby survived the incident as well. And her owner, Joleen Walderbach (John and Janet's daughter), couldn't be more proud.

"In my eyes, and in the eyes of my family, Shelby is more than a hero; she is a lifesaver, a guardian angel," said Joleen.

For her efforts, Shelby and her owner received $500, one year's supply of Skippy dog food, and an engraved Skippy Dog Hero food bowl.

Two other dogs were recognized as Skippy Dog Heroes in this year's contest. Each received a $200 cash prize.

First runner-up honors went to Spike, a 2-year-old American pitbull terrier owned by Dr. Danny Fredman of Tucson, AZ. Last summer, when Spike's owner was preparing to dive into his pool, Spike began barking incessantly. Sensing something must be wrong, Danny turned on the pool lights. To his astonishment, a 5-foot Western Diamondback Rattlesnake was coiled up on the surface of the water, right in his swimming path. By warning Danny of the danger, Spike saved his owner's life.

Second runner-up honors went to Sam, a 1-year-old black labrador/rottweiler mix owned by David Biddle of Boalsburg, PA. Sam was living with David and his roommates while David attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. One early morning, Sam's scratching and whining at their door awakened David's roommates. They found David on their sofa moaning and disoriented with a 108° fever. They took him to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis.

David spent 102 days in the hospital, where Sam often visited him to help keep up his spirits. David lost six fingers and both legs below the knee to his illness, but he survived and returned to Lehigh this year, using prostheses. If Sam had not awakened David's friends and David had gone without treatment for even one-half hour longer, he would have lost his life.

Skippy dog food is manufactured by Heinz Pet Products, an affiliate of the H.J. Heinz Co., a leading producer of dog and cat food and treats, with top-selling brands such as 9-Lives and Pounce cat food and treats; Skippy, Kibbles 'n Bits and Gravy Train dog food; and Jerky Treats, Snausages, Pup-Peroni, and Meaty Bone dog treats.

Edited by Sandy Smith