A FAMILY have said they owe their lives to their pet Labrador who died trying to protect them from being savaged by another dog.
Sean and Deirdre Doherty escaped with only minor injuries after an horrific attack by a pit bull-type dog in Randalstown Forest Park, Antrim as they took a stroll with their two children, four Labradors and an exchange student.
Deirdre said it attacked their largest pet, Cole, first.
‘His leg was being chewed, I was on top of him trying to pull the leg free. My husband had the dog from behind, the children were beating the dog with leads,’ she said. ‘Eventually, Cole passed out with pain and the dog turned on me. It had me by the arm and flipped my whole body over. Luckily, I had a big padded coat on so the coat took the brunt of it.
‘We screamed at the kids to run and my husband wrangled the dog off me.’
Her husband, Sean, explained that the dog then ran towards the children, Ben, 10, Lauren, 13 and a Marcela, an 18-year-old Argentinean student staying with them.
Sean said when their four-year-old Labrador, Troy, saw Ben was in danger, hedived to his aid.
"My son is only 10, he was at the back, his dog was beside him. Troy turned when he heard me screaming and realised he was about to jump on Ben, he was right on Ben's heels. The minute he saw Ben was in danger, he saved him. Troy sacrificed himself to save the kids," he told.
The large dog continued to fight with Troy until police arrived and shot the dog dead.
But the much-loved family pet, the father of Cole, later died from his injuries.
"We are just devastated by Troy's death," said Sean. "He always gave hugs, put his head on your chest. We have cuts and bruises from the attack. This other dog was let off to kill. You could see it in his eyes. But the children are okay. We are so thankful to Troy for saving our lives."
Deirdre said there was no sign of a dog owner, and no collar on the attacking dog.
"It just beggars belief that somebody would let a dog like this run loose in a forest that is regularly used by families," she said. "We can't believe we are still in one piece."
Antrim Borough Council passed on their sympathy to the family.