My Dog Saved My Life

By on March 8, 2017

Surely you’ve heard someone at some point say that something “Saved my life!” Sometimes he or she is speaking literally, but most times it’s simply a statement thrown around hyperbolically to show how much someone or something has been impactful. In this story, however, there’s a dog, a person, and an honest-to-goodness event that resulted in the saving of a life. This is the story of Bruno the Boxer and his owner, Denise Bradshaw.

When Denise was two years old, her family got its first Boxer. She’s always loved the breed as a result. And about a decade ago, when her beloved Boxer “Jade” passed away from canine cancer, Denise was grief-stricken. She said the same thing many of us say when we lose a pet: “I’m not going to replace her.” Or, “Why would I get another pet? They’re just going to die and it’s too hard to deal with.” She planned on going it alone. No more dogs. One day, though, as she needed a “doggie fix,” she decided to travel to Hefflinger Dog Park just to relax, look at happy owners and dogs, and smile.

There’s was something quite peculiar about the park’s constitution that day. “It was jammed packed and it seemed all the dogs there were Boxers,” she says. Maybe there was a Boxer meet up that day. Or maybe, Denise wonders, something bigger than her was taking place. This was no coincidence, it seemed.

And upon striking up a conversation with a Boxer owner, Denise told her story of recent loss and her love for the breed that was miraculously surrounding her. The person she spoke with suggested that Denise contact a local, reputable breeder who just so happened to have a new litter of Boxer pups. All of this seemed fatefully arranged to Denise as she mustered up the gumption to contact the breeder and meet the puppies. “I truly believe that God took me to the dog park that day and set that series of events in motion.”

Denise made contact, learned of a white boxer pup, and made arrangements to meet up. Her intention was to go, check out the little dog, and eventually take it home. She did meet the white puppy, but during her visit, she met another Boxer pup, too. Bruno, as he later became. He was a brindle Boxer. He was also male. He was everything she didn’t want. But when Bruno repeatedly nuzzled Denise, eventually sitting on her standing feet and whining, Denise got the feeling many of us have felt about our animals- sometimes you choose the dog, but other times the dog chooses you. In this case, it was certainly the latter and Denise went home with little Bruno.


Each year, inevitably, there’s a point when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announces that the flu has begun to spread through the population, eventually warning and urging folks to get immunized. And during the 2009-2010 flu season, the CDC was extra concerned with the H1N1 strand that was a more-than-typically-killer type of influenza. Denise, like so many others, was vigilant, got her shot, and went on with her life. When she started experiencing dizziness, she thought it strange, but didn’t make much of it. When she started running into things, she again wondered what was going on. But on the morning of February 19, 2010, when she and Bruno prepared to step out for a walk, Denise didn’t step, she fell.

Little did she know, Denise was experiencing some pretty severe complications as a result of her seemingly innocuous immunization. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves, according the Mayo Clinic. Weakness and tingling in extremities are typical symptoms. The sensations can quickly spread, eventually causing paralysis as it did in Denise. The exact cause of Guillain-Barre isn’t known, but immunizations can trigger the syndrome, which was the case for her.

*Editorial Note- we are a pet news and information site. We are not trying to and never will persuade or dissuade anyone from getting immunized. We’re simply stating the facts of Denise’s case here.*

When Bruno and Denise set out for their walk, and when Denise fell, her legs became acutely paralyzed. She could use her arms and hands, which was helpful, but she was barely mobile. “If I could do anything, it was a sort of Army crawl, and I wasn’t going to be able to get very far very fast. I was convinced I was going to die. And I could have.” That is, she could have, if it weren’t for Bruno.


Denise’s hand was on Bruno’s leash. Knowing not what to do, Denise simply said to Bruno, “Help me.”


Bruno is a big guy. Luckily, it was Bruno on the other end of the leash and not her other pup, Diesel the pug. “Bruno could sense something was wrong and what he did, quite frankly was what saved my life,” she says.

Bruno tugged. Bruno pulled. Maybe it was canine instinct, or maybe it was an actual knowing that something needed to be done, and Bruno pulled his owner up a step. Then through a room. Then to the table where her cell phone rested. And upon reaching the table Bruno charged like a bull, ramming his big old Boxer head so hard into the table that the cell phone fell to the floor and right next to Denise. Unbelievable, right? Stranger than fiction, no? This is Denise’s account and this is what Denise describes as Bruno saving her life. It certainly seems to be a miraculous story, but the proof is in this fact: Denise is alive and well to tell this story today.



Before the medical incident, Bruno was “my best friend, my protector,” she says. Part of the reason Denise got Bruno was that he could, if forced to, protect his mom. But after the medical episode, Denise calls Bruno something else. “My hero.”


This is a tale of wonder and amazement for sure. This is also a tale of a heroic pup saving his owner’s life. At the same time, Denise wants it to be a cautionary tale. Here are some things Denise wants all people to know and do:

  • Never keep your phone too far away. Imagine if it had been somewhere Bruno couldn’t retrieve it…
  • If you have a dog, want a dog, or even think about getting one, get a dog that can provide some sort of security. When something happens, it would be nice if your pup could help. Just ask Denise whether that’s important.
  • Tell people (in writing) what happens to your dogs when you die. Though a morbid thought, it’s important to consider. Who will take care of the pup? Will your assets go towards the dog’s future care? Is there a special organization you want your pup to come under the care of? Think it through. Consult an attorney if it’s important to you. If your specific lawyer can’t help, he or she surely can recommend someone who can.

It all sounds hyperbolic sometimes, right? “This” saved my life… or “That” was my saving grace. But in Denise Bradshaw’s case, she says, it’s true. “Bruno really did save my life. He’s my hero.”

Thanks, Bruno. Your mom is very grateful and we’re glad we got to tell this story and not another version of it.


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