Marybeth Fortner and her service dog, Tush, were escorting Marybeth’s 8-year-old niece to the bus stop last week when two dogs rushed out of the woods and attacked Tush. Marybeth sent her young niece running for help. Then she tried to stop the attack by flinging herself out of her wheelchair and on top of her dog to shield her. “I didn’t think,” Marybeth says. “I just dove and tried to put my hands in their mouths. They were tearing her to shreds.”
One of the dogs locked his jaw on Tush’s neck, and the other attacked his front left leg. A long struggle ensued leaving both Marybeth and Tush with multiple fractures and deep wounds. After repeatedly elbowing the strays in the neck and face, Marybeth says she was finally able to set Tush free.
Even with a nearly severed leg, Tush was able to follow Mary’s commands and hold Mary’s entire weight so she could climb into her van to get help. According to Marybeth’s neighbor, Tabitha Starlin, “Tush wouldn’t let anyone else help Marybeth get into her van. Even with her leg hanging by just skin and tendons, Tush pulled Marybeth and her chair to the van, hopping on three legs,” Starlin says. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It brought tears to my eyes.”
Marybeth insisted on taking Tush to the veterinarian before she would get treatment for herself. Without removing the dog from the van, the local family veterinarian directed Marybeth and her neighbors straight to BluePearl Veterinary Partners, a specialty and emergency hospital for pets in Tampa.
Once there, husband and wife team Miryam Reems, who is board certified in veterinary emergency and critical care, and Michael Reems, who is board certified in surgery, worked together to save Tush’s leg. They are optimistic Tush will be able to return to her role helping Marybeth retain her independence.
Marybeth has had Tush for 10 years.”Tush and I are inseparable,” she says.”By saving Tush, the doctors at BluePearl saved me. I can’t express in words how grateful I am for everything they’re doing for us.”
More than $6,250 has already been donated for Tush’s treatment through Frankie’s Friends, a non-profit organization that provides hope for families who are unable to pay for a pet’s unexpected emergency or illness. Marybeth, who has financial struggles, is hoping to raise more funds to cover the full cost of Tush’s treatment, which is expected to exceed $10,000. To learn more or make a donation, please visit frankiesfriends.com.