“There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
In this world of terrorist threats, ridiculous political nonsense, and far too many shootings, we could really use a hero. And I mean a REAL hero. I’m not talking about stereotypical vigilantes like Batman, Spiderman, or Wonder Woman. There’s only so far you can go with a flashy car, spandex, and a push-up breastplate. The dictionary defines a hero as: “a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities.” But what about a champion like Underdog? There are many stories about dogs performing selfless acts of valor, saving their owners—and complete strangers—from disastrous outcomes. From burglaries to gas leaks, to tracking lost toddlers, these canines are lionhearted when facing a perilous scenario. And let’s not forget the specially-trained dogs who rescue the living after earthquakes, sniff out explosives, and assist the blind.
While Captain America, Catwoman, and The Green Lantern are impressive, they can’t hold a candle to the scrappiest superstar on the planet. A mutt with a mission, and a true protector of the people, I give to you The Mighty Mozzarella. This plump little package of personality is a winter white English Bulldog, who’s giving Superman a run for his money. More on that a bit later.
Formerly known as Millie, she came to ARF with a dreadful case of mange, but after a little medication and a lot of TLC, she recovered nicely. A joyful, affectionate dog, Mozzarella made friends easily with the visiting public. On March 22 of last year, she was adopted and renamed by the nicest couple around, Matthew and Kezia Roman. Originally hesitant to get a pet due to allergies, they chose one of ARF’s smaller pooches only to learn the dog was already adopted. Continuing their search, they looked at other potential companions. And in a quirky twist of fate, unbeknownst to each other, they had both noticed Mozzarella and fallen in love with her. A happy ending, right? Well, eventually…it just took some lights, camera, action!
Now Mozzarella is a good-sized girl, and per their lease, too large for the Roman’s apartment. They pleaded their case but were still met with a resounding NO from the management. In desperation, the couple got creative. They decided to make a video starring the happy hound, convinced it would sway the jury. Their filmmaking skills didn’t win them an Oscar, but it did persuade the landlords. The Romans promptly made a beeline to ARF and collected Miss Mozzarella. In the following months, the couple regaled us with stories regarding the impact that Mozzarella has made on their lives, particularly her uncanny ability to notify Matthew when his blood glucose levels spike too high or low. As a diabetic, he must constantly monitor these levels. Normal or “good” numbers typically range between 80-100, and anything else can have catastrophic results. If his numbers are too high, he can fall into a diabetic coma, and low numbers can literally make his heart stop. That is some scary stuff.
After having a surgical procedure last April, Matthew suffered a pulmonary embolism which caused diabetic complications, specifically, constant high numbers. He was sent to the hospital, where he enjoyed the luxuries of bad food and five TV channels for a month. It wasn’t until he returned home, that Matthew recognized the true talents of his pudgy pup. One day after a shopping trip, he felt ill and just attributed it to exhaustion. His decision to lie down in a back bedroom could have been his last, had it not been for the amazing actions of one concerned canine. Matthew awoke to a very distressed Mozzarella licking his face, and an extremely frightened Kezia right behind her. Apparently, the bulldog had been head-butting the closed door, while running up and down the hallway to notify Kezia.
Since Matthew was visibly disoriented, his wife brought out the blood glucose meter. The reading showed a sugar level of just 15, meaning his heart could have easily stopped. Matthew describes another close call when Mozzarella came to the rescue, “She climbed on my lap and up to my chest, making her way to my face, gaining my full attention. She licked my face and made garbling sounds, as though she was trying to talk until I awoke. My blood glucose level was 25 at that time.” On a daily basis, Mozzarella alerts Matthew about his spiking levels, by intensely licking his fingers and toes. He proudly says, “We have thought of getting Mozzarella trained and certified as a diabetes alert dog, and yet she has already proven her abilities.”
This stouthearted sweetie is top-notch to her owners, but she recently earned the admiration and gratitude of her neighbors as well. It was 5 a.m. on September 27, 2016, when Kezia was awakened by Mozzarella, who was making extremely strange sounds. When Kezia went to investigate, she found her dog staring quizzically at the kitchen wall. After hearing banging noises, and noticing a small black hole beginning to appear, she rushed to wake her husband. Matthew observed a bubble growing under the paint, and when he touched the wall and felt the rising heat, his fears were confirmed.
He hastily told Kezia to call 911, and then get herself and Mozzarella out of the building. Hobbling on his cane while balancing an extinguisher, Matthew ran through the building, pounding on doors and yelling “FIRE!” He found the source in the apartment right next door, where a man was frantically dumping cups of water on the blaze. After jumping in to help, Matthew thought the situation was under control. But when he went outside to check on Kezia and Mozzarella, he saw flames coming from the roof. Fortunately, the fire department arrived within minutes.
What could have been a tragic case of lost lives turned into an unbelievable tale of one dog’s curiosity saving lives instead. It turns out the fire started with the neighboring wife putting a pan of oil on the stove, and asking her husband to cook for their children. He didn’t hear her, and when he finally entered the kitchen, the wall had already ignited. Panicking, he yanked the pan from the burner, started punching holes in the wall with a screwdriver, and dousing the flames. In his confusion, the neighbor failed to call 911. If Mozzarella had not perceived that black spot and banging as potential danger signs, things might have gone horribly wrong. The fire sergeant told the Romans, “If two more minutes had passed, all eight units would have been lost.” All emergency personnel who met Mozzarella called her a hero, patting her head and saying, “thank you,” and “you’re a little life saver.”
Due to severe smoke damage, the family was moved into a different apartment that night. However, all the stress from the day’s events took a toll on Mozzarella. The alien smells and surroundings had clearly spooked this bravest of bulldogs. According to Matthew and Kezia, “She spent the first night with her nose pressed against the front door, emitting occasional low growls and ‘scoffing hmphs’ throughout the night. The second day, she mostly hid under our new kitchen table, barking at the unfamiliar sounds.” Mozzarella lost her beloved pink and purple bed in the accident but quickly fell in love with a substitute. She received new toys, but still misses favorites, like her Hello Kitty and potbelly pig dolls.
She still stands guard at the door when visitors arrive but relaxes after a friendly introduction. Her appetite disappeared for a while but is slowly returning. Despite having no renter’s insurance and Matthew being on disability, the couple was able to replace the kitchen and dining rooms, though not their living room furniture. But to the Romans, this is small potatoes considering how good Lady Luck has been to them. They are quick to declare, “We are alive, as are the rest of the tenants, thanks to Mozzarella. We are grateful every day for our little angel.”
Looking for an angel of your own? Come by and meet the wonderful dogs at ARF, or visit your local rescue. Rescue dogs may not have wings, but they all have plenty of heart.
If you would like to help Matthew & Kezia get back on their feet, please visit our website at www.arf-fresno.com. Click on the “donate” button for our PayPal page, and type “Mozzarella” in the note field. You can also find more dogs in need of adoption.
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with Kings River Life Magazine their animal rescue adventures every month. This article was released in their November 5, 2016 issue and can be found on KingsRiverLife.com under the ‘Animal Rescue Adventures’ section.