It’s a good idea to suck up to your dog now and again

America lost a hero last week. In this case, the hero was a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois named Eva. I am told that a Malinois is a breed of dog and not the original name of the state where Chicago is located.

Back in May, Eva’s owner, Erin Wilson, was at a picnic area in Northern California’s Trinity County when she was attacked by a mountain lion. Eva was walking nearby, and immediately came to her owner’s rescue, distracting the mountain lion long enough to allow Erin to escape and flag down a passing motorist. The mountain lion managed to lock her jaws around Eva’s head before Erin and a passing motorist returned to pepper spray the mountain lion and club it with a piece of PVC pipe, standard items carried in the cars of all residents of Trinity County evidently.

The dazed mountain lion wandered off, and Erin rushed Eva to an animal hospital where she was treated for a fractured skull and punctured nasal cavity. News of Eva’s heroics spread, and a GoFundMe page was set up and raised some $30,000 to cover Eva’s medical expenses.

Eva appeared to be improving in the weeks after leaving the animal hospital, but earlier this month she began suffering seizures. Eva died last week in the veterinary hospital at the University of California at Davis.

This is not the first time a humble canine has saved the life of its owner. Some years ago I read a newspaper report of Buddy the German shepherd from Scottsdale, AZ who saved his owner, Joe Stalnaker’s, life – not just once, but three times – by dialing 911 when Joe had a seizure and collapsed from a head injury suffered 10 years earlier. It turns out that Buddy was a trained assistance dog from a Michigan-based outfit called Paws with a Cause. Buddy had been trained to tap out 911 on Mr. Stalnaker’s specially designed telephone when his master needed help. Paramedics responded to Buddy’s most-recent distress call and rushed Mr. Stalnaker to the hospital. Stalnaker fully recovered now and is back on his two feet and no doubt in eternal debt to his four-legged friend.

I read the story of both Eva and Buddy out loud to our dog Islay the other day, hoping to implant in her a commitment to demonstrate similar heroics on my behalf should the situation ever call for it. I’m also making a deliberate effort to curry favor with Islay in case I need her to step up in an emergency like Eva and Buddy.

My campaign includes taking her for more-frequent walks at Pritchard Park, her favorite place on the island, and a noticeably more liberal policy on handing out of treats for good behavior, or even fair behavior, with a half a treat for bad behavior so long as she displays remorse, regret or good penmanship. Once I know for certain that Islay is thoroughly committed to my continued existence, I’ll move on to part two of my plan, which involves occasionally faking a medical emergency such as a seizure to see how she responds.

I don’t expect Islay to grab my cell phone and pound out 911, of course. I can barely dial 911 on the stupid little thing myself, and fine motor skills are not Islay’s strong suit. I’ll just be happy if she barks when I feign my imminent demise, or if she rushes away to locate and retrieve another human.

It may sound crazy to suck up to your dog as a preventive medicine strategy, but the adventures of Buddy and Joe Stalnaker are not the only documented cases of a dog saving his or her master. Who doesn’t recall how many times Rin Tin Tin pulled Rusty’s clumsy behind out of the proverbial fire? And can we ever forget the dozens of times Lassie managed to alert June Lockhart to the fact that Timmy had once again fallen into an abandoned well or gotten stuck in an old mineshaft?

And my campaign seems to be working. I fell asleep the other night watching a History Channel show on the invention of the cummerbund, and I was startled awake by Islay sticking her cold nose in my ear. I’m sure she was checking to see if I was OK.

Now, if I can just get her to wear a keg of beer around her neck….

Tom Tyner writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.