A Florida family said goodbye to their beloved pit bull last week after the 9-month-old puppy heroically protected two of the family’s children from a venomous coral snake.
The Richardson family is mourning the loss of their dog Zeus, who put himself in between two of their sons and the deadly snake when the young boys were out playing in the family’s Sumter County backyard last Monday, Sept. 23.
According to the boys’ mother, Gina Richardson, while 10-year-old Oriley and 11-year-old Orion were in the backyard, Zeus suddenly jumped toward her younger son and began attacking something on the ground, she told CNN.
The family didn’t realize it was a venomous coral snake, and when the dog’s efforts began to fail, he laid his entire body over the predator to prevent it from approaching the boys. During his fight, Zeus was bitten four times before finally biting off the snake’s head and swallowing it.
Dad Gary Richardson recalled to Fox 35 Orlando, “I knew when he first came in that something was wrong and it was very traumatic because I knew he was dying.”
Once they realized what had happened, the family immediately rushed their hero dog to the vet, where he was given an antivenom. The family was hopeful that he would pull through, but Zeus died the next day, which happened to be Oriley’s birthday.
“I just started bawling,” Gina told CNN. “My kids woke up and heard me crying and then they too started crying. We were all an emotional wreck.”
Zeus’s mother, Sega, was also present when her puppy died.
“Sega goes over to Zeus’ head and puts her paws up on the table and takes a sniff,” Gina recalled. “Her ears came back, she got down, she instantly jumped on the sofa next to me and put her head on my thigh in sorrow. At that moment not only was my family broken, but his own mother was broken.”
Gina told CBS News that Zeus was born at the family’s home on New Year’s Day of this year, adding, “He will be remembered by the many hearts he has touched across the world now.”
Gary called the dog his “best friend,” and hopes that his act of valor sheds light on the loving and protective nature of pit bulls.
“I’m torn between wanting to be happy that this situation has brought awareness to his breed and their kind and loving nature, and the sorrow of having lost him,” he shared.
His wife told Fox that if people come across pit bulls who are “aggressive,” then it’s “most likely because they weren’t treated right.”
“If you treat them right, they would give their life for you,” she said. “And I owe my son’s life to him.”