Heroic Elderly Dog Sacrifices Himself for His Family

“He was obsessed with shortening sticks and tearing up any cardboard he could find. He was extremely meticulous and many a vacuum cleaner died trying to tidy up his messes.”

Hannah Bochart of Haines, Alaska recently dealt with the loss of her beloved dog, Mason.  But during her grief, she penned the most touching tribute, and the story of his life and death is incredible:

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This is Steve Mason, the most incredible dog I have ever met and my best friend of the past 16 years. And this is the story of how he died saving my life one last time.

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Steve Mason, “Mason” to his friends was a Husky, Lab, Rottweiler mutt with insanely fluffy ears and markings on his face that made it look like he was always wearing Harry Potter specs. I picked him out of a litter of puppies because while all the others yipped and squealed and played, he was the only one to stop and snuffle the flowers.

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He and I went on enough adventures to shame the Fellowship, and hit the top of more mountains than I can honestly remember. He always had this way of perking up his ears that could spur me to keep going, either to the top of a ridge line or out of whatever ridiculous angst I found myself muddled in.

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He was obsessed with shortening sticks and tearing up any cardboard he could find. He was extremely meticulous and many a vacuum cleaner died trying to tidy up his messes.

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Mason was a best friend and rock steady companion for my older brother and a traveling companion like no other. And every time he saw my brother, even if five years had gone by, he’d still try and jump in his arms like a puppy.

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Everyone who met him came away saying that he was a remarkable dog, and many could honestly say he was the nicest person they’d ever met.

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Over the past two years he began to show his age. His hearing and much of his eyesight abandoned him, along with his sense of balance.

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I kept expecting him to die in his sleep or collapse on a hike.

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My worst fear was that he would grow so old and infirm that we’d have to put him down. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to go through what I’ve had to do for so many other dogs with him. He was far too special. He just seemed so old.

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But he just kept on going, refusing to take it easy. He moved slower, and couldn’t go as far, but he never seemed to mind.

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This winter I’d been sure to get as many adventures in with him as possible, knowing our days together might be numbered. On March 5th, he and I, along with my family’s three younger dogs took off for what was meant to be a quick hike around our property before I had to go to work.

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We were about a mile from home on our snowshoe trail when I noticed a figure following us about a quarter mile back. I recognized it as a wolf right away. I hadn’t seen a wolf in my valley for about fifteen years, but wolves are shy and usually hide from humans, especially one with four dogs. Trying to be respectful, I turned us towards home, thinking we’d give the wolf room to escape and think no more about it.

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A few minutes later the littlest dog gave a bark and I turned to see the wolf standing five feet behind us. She was huge, her shoulder nearly coming up to my hip. She looked scared but determined, and most of all she looked hungry. We were in trouble. She attacked and we spent the next twenty minutes trying to fight her off. I was hitting her with my ski poles while the dogs nipped and tried to avoid her teeth. She was weak but a good fighter.

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Mason and I ended up fighting side-by-side. The wolf kept staring me in the eyes, but it was clear she was after the dogs. She finally pinned the smallest dog and Mason lunged at her. Suddenly my frail old man looked huge, bigger than I’d ever seen him before. He knocked her off the puppy, but she got Mason by the throat. It was over in a split second. I have never screamed so loud. Every fiber in my being was telling me to kill her, stab her in the eye, tear her throat out if I could. But that would have only gotten me killed too, and there were three other dogs I had to get out of there. It was too late anyway. He was dead and she was eating him.

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This is the wolf. This picture was taken the morning after by some guards and the nearby border station when she wandered past. Though all I wanted to do in the moment was kill her, she really is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. And now that it’s done, I hold no hate for her. She was starving to death and did what she had to to survive. I think she went into the fight knowing she might be the one to get killed, and it was simply the luck of the draw that she got him first. I only hope she leaves this valley safely.

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I miss Mason like there is a hole in my chest. Though I know there was nothing else I could have done, I can’t escape the thought that I failed to save him. But most dogs at sixteen die by the fireside, slowly and painfully of old age. Mason went out of this world like a thunderbolt, saving my life and the lives of the three younger dogs. He was my puppy, my “grizzly”, my brother, my friend, and he died as he lived: My hero. I love you, buddy. Goodbye.





37 thoughts on “Heroic Elderly Dog Sacrifices Himself for His Family

  1. Absolutely beautiful dog and such an amazing story. we should all be so lucky to have such a love in our lives and to be able to live this world saving the ones we love instead of in pain and old age

  2. Tears, upon tears, upon tears for you and your hero. May we all be blessed with a life that knows such love and loyalty. Xxx

  3. And by not properly taking care of that wolf which showed no fear of humans, dogs, etc it will now probably attack and kill a human/dog again. And a person doesn’t carry a firearm walking around the dangerous wilds of Alaska for personal protection? Nice job, tree hugger. You should’ve gone down with your faithful dog. Unreal. Did you give the wolf some salt and pepper with a handy napkin to go with “Tartar Family Dog”?

    1. To the Anonymous that left such a cruel and heartless message:
      The proper way to speak to a human being is to offer compassionate advice, not hurtful criticism during a time of hurt and loss. There are so many ways to have “doled this out”…this was not the way. What must you think of yourself? That you’re improving the world one nasty comment at a time?

    2. what a dumb comment–no doubt you belong to the group that wants to kill all wildlife and wishes to “pack heat” in your holster every where you go–even to bed.

    3. The only sentence I would even give you a modicum of credit for is the first one. A wild animal that loses fear of humans can become problematic. That said, nothing about your post is worth repeating and all you have proven yourself to be is an ignorant troll. I have way more respect for that wolf than an opinionated, ideological coward who hides behind a keyboard. And just reading from your post, I can already tell you don’t know nearly as much about wildlife as you think you do. Want to try to pass yourself off as some kind of an Alaskan wilderness expert? How about trying to pass yourself off as a decent human being? My take is you would fail at both. Good day.

    4. Aren’t you an idiot. Wolves are naturally afraid of humans scumbag. That one was obviously starving and looking for an easy kill. She said it was her first wolf encounter in SIXTEEN Year douche. Get a clue will you. Not everyone have the urge to kill unlike scums like you. Stupid wolf hater.

  4. So anonymous, where did you get your wolf “education?” I’m guessing from some other ignorant ass. If you’re starving, you’ll do anything for food, yes YOU. This wolf faced a great deal of danger approaching a human and four dogs, she was clearly starving so she did what she had to…her next meal will most likely be something in her food chain.

    What I’d really like to get rid of are people like you – no knowledge of wildlife, or interest in gaining any – whose answer to every problem is “kill it.” You’re a scar on the face of humanity. The wolf has outstanding bloodlines, yours are scum.

    1. Where did you get your wolf education? Please enlighten us. It sounds like you’re putting human attributes on to a wild animal which if you ask any animal behaviorist is wrong.

      1. Speaking off enlightenment, standing up for an ignorant coward like anonymous says all the wrong things about your moral compass. Maybe you should be asking why a fellow human could show such complete ignorance and lack of sympathy to someone who is willing to share her story, instead of pondering who knows more about wolves than whom.

  5. This is a horrible thing that happened. I just read a story on my local news about coyotes killing someones dog in their yard, I am getting afraid to let my dogs out even tho I watch them like a hawk when they are out.

  6. Such a sad and yet beautiful story! I’m literally sitting here with tears rolling down my face as I read your story. Such a heroic soul your Mason. RIP Steve Mason. Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. R.I.P Mason, you were a good and brave companion, you will be missed, you were blessed with a long and loving life, you left this world a true Hero, protecting the person who protected you all of your life, I don’t think you would have had it any other way…You will be missed sweet one..

  8. One thing’s for sure is this is a sad story. Hard to pinpoint what is/isn’t right to do. If I’m roaming the wilds of Alaska with my dogs, I’m carrying a firearm for my and their protection. Period. But that’s this woman’s choice and maybe she’s unable/unwilling to do such a thing. But the one thing I just don’t get is all the support of Mason’s ultimate fate. Why does it seem better for a dog to die by being torn to shreds by a wolf in the wild rather than peacefully at home or in a doctor’s office with its loving family? That’s the one thing that bothers me the most about all the comments here and on LWD’s FB page.

    1. Ray, I agree with the sentiments of others here and was in tears reading what happened to this kind soul and her dog, but I feel compelled to respond only to you.

      Chances are that Mason did not die from being “torn to shreds”. Because of his age and frailty he more likely died from the shock of the adrenalin rush to his heart. But, I believe there is some part of every being that wants to go out in a blaze of glory, ending life with a magnificent and noble act of bravery that benefits those we love. I believe that Mason would be so happy and proud to know that he lived as long as he did, putting up the poor eyesight, dulled hearing, arthritis, weak heart and the pains that come with age, in order to still be there to save the lives of those he loved. Please do not begrudge him that. His good, long life was ended by a final sacrifice to those who loved him and those he loved. Dogs willingly make that sacrifice. Applaud him, mourn for him, but appreciate that he made a choice and ended his life in a grand way. He was a hero of the highest order.

    2. I think it is absolutely disgusting that you would place your dog at risk considering his age, dedication and loyalty. This is a form of animal neglect and YOU should be absolutely ashamed of yourself for having an elder dog get killed in this fashion. YOU would have been more humane putting him to sleep WITHOUT SUFFERING. Dog owners like this make me SICK!

  9. This is a beautiful story. You are a remarkable person for being able to understand and forgive the wolf. My heart goes out to you and Mason.

  10. My initial thought (beyond the heroics and love of this dog) was that if this had been three starving wolves there would have been no writer for this story. Wild animals don’t attack humans unless starving, sick, hurt, or elderly. If they do it shows a loss of their natural fear of people. If she lives in a wilderness area then a walk should include a firearm. A shot fired in the air would have sent the wolf running. That is what the pioneers who went to Alaska did; for practical reasons like wolves and bears. Still this is the story of a dog hero whatever the failings of the owner.

  11. Ray Orr, I love how you put your comment. I can’t wrap my head around this either. I mean poor Mason didn’t deserve to die so freaking tragically as he did. He deserving of a warm bed at his home. I don’t get this at all..she lives there knows the dangers out there why put herself and her “beloved dogs” in danger? I read this story on the Examiner website and cried like a baby and all I could think about it that poor dog being ripped to shreds and her other dog was also wounded. Good lord what the hell?? I don’t know what I would have done but I damn well I would have never left the house without some protection, not so much a gun but maybe a lead pipe or something…..JMHO

  12. Hannah —

    My beloved Unahoy (“Little Bear”) looked like Mason’s twin. He was gifted to me by Native American friends in Washington State who were no longer able to care for him, and came to New York. We all wondered how he would fare here. He loved it. Partay!
    SO many scents, so many everythings.

    There was just something bout him — a benevolence, a sturdiness and sweetness and
    intelligence. Once, walking through our neighborhood, a man coming toward us dropped to his knees before Unhoy and said “those eyes, oh my god, those eyes.”

    The Bear has been one of the great loves of my life. He lived to be almost 16, when kidney cancer made his life too terrible hard. I held him while the vet eased him from pain. The pain of his absence is mine now. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
    I miss him every day

  13. He died a good death. There is great honor in the next life that awaits him for that. His spirit will live on…

  14. Sitting in work right now, trying to hold back tears. It’s not working too well. Well done brave Mason. Rest in peace boy, you did a good job protecting your pack. What a good dog and a perfect boy.

  15. I’m sorry but I tend to agree with the down-voted, not showing comment by Anonymous. This wolf needs to be put down. Sorry about your dog, you failed him, but I don’t hold it againts you, because God knows how I failed my own dog. We’re not perfect, and sometimes as they say… you know what happens.

  16. Oh my, how terrible……..but your old guy did what he’d have done just the same as a younger dog in looking after his person as only he knew how. Your love for him comes through in the amount of photos you have of him…..I’m so sorry you lost him like this…..an awful memory to live with. But keep going through all the beautiful shots you have of him and remember 16 years not the last few minutes XX

  17. To the fellow who leave rude comment,
    So now you trying to say that dog will kill man?they are dangerous?Then how about we human keep killing other innocence animals for our selfish need?So you are saying human are not dangerous at all?wrong dude,human are the most dangerous existence in this world.Btw,if you hate dogs don’t see this post,no one force you to slut.Try to imagine if someone say what you said to your family how will you feel?For me my dog is part of my family,so think twice before you talk something KID

  18. I bet that rude anonymous never have a dog,pity him never feel the most sincere love from a pure heart.

  19. Wat a.story…….ur dog was.gorgeous.and an.absolute hero. He.will be running free now. Rip mason!!!!xxxx

  20. I thought I was sad today but that was before I read this ! Now I am completely heartbroken ! My most sincere sympathies. He was a beautiful wonderful dog and now many people will have known what a brave good boy he was.

  21. This story is utterly beautiful. Rest in peace, Mason, you died a hero. This is the kind of story I show to anyone who thinks humans are better than dogs. Few humans would be that selfless and loyal. You’re an amazing dog, Steve Mason.
    I have a lot of respect for the writer of this article. I love wolves, but if a wolf attacked and killed my Dusty or my Leo (my dogs, if that wasn’t clear), I don’t think I would have that kind of forgiveness.
    Thank you Mason, for being an incredible dog and teaching us humans what it means to be family.

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