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Four-Legged Angel

Yogi and his owner Paul Horton share a special bond.

Lassie would be proud to meet Yogi. As one hero to another, Yogi is being honored by finding help for his fallen owner. The Golden Retriever is being credited with helping his owner after a serious cycling accident.

Last October, Paul Horton of Austin, TX decided to take a bicycle ride on a mountain trail near his home. The retired engineer ventured off with his canine companion by his side. He and the Golden had always shared a special bond. Yogi joined the Horton family when he was a puppy and was named for the baseball great Yogi Berra.

As he and his dog ventured around the area, Paul suddenly hit a curb, flew over the handle bars and landed on his head. Lying face-down on the pavement with blood around him and unable to move, Paul knew he was paralyzed. Knowing that he was in a secluded wooded area, Paul knew he needed help, so he spoke to his Golden and gave the command to "Go Home!" Paul knew that if the Golden returned home alone, his wife would know that something was wrong and would come searching for him. "He knows what 'Go Home' means and what it means when I say 'Go find Shearon,'" says Paul. However, the Golden did not leave. Instead, Yogi kept running up the hill to the road and back down to check on him. After doing this several times, Yogi finally saw Horton's neighbors, the Tates, out walking their dog and sprang into action. He ran frantically towards the couple and refused to be petted. He barked and barked, signaling them to follow. "It's pretty amazing that Yogi first stayed with Paul when he needed to, then recognized us and came to get us," Bruce Tate said. "Paul was in desperate shape. He wasn't in a place where there's a lot of traffic."

When the Tates found Paul, they called for help. Once he was put into the ambulance and was on his way to the hospital, they tried to get Yogi to come with them but he refused to leave the scene until they were able to lure him away with one of Paul's shoes. When Paul fell, he broke his C7 vertebra which left him paralyzed from the chest down. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of his accident.

Yogi stayed with the Tates while Paul was in the hospital. Once he was moved to St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital, his wife brought Yogi to visit several times during his two-month stay. "The dog alerting his neighbor was instrumental in getting him to a hospital and preventing his choking to death or going into shock," said Dr. Juan LaTorre, medical director of the spinal cord injury and amputee program at St. David's Rehabilitation Hospital. "He might not have survived if he hadn't been found until the next day."

Because of his wonderful act of bravery and love, Yogi was chosen as the Humane Society of the United States' 2011 Dogs of Valor Award winner. He was also honored as the People's Hero, which was chosen by the public through online voting.

These days, Yogi rarely leaves Paul's side. He runs around the house after Paul's wheelchair with his tail swinging happily back and forth. The only time he leaves Paul's side is when his wife Shearon plays the piano. That is when he trots over near the piano, lifts his head and howls slowly to the music.

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