A 3-year-old Polish girl who went missing Friday is alive today because of her small dog, who used its body heat to keep her warm overnight, as near-freezing temperatures set in.
"For the whole night the animal was with the girl, it never left her. Remember, it was 5 degrees below zero and the child was wet," local firefighter Grzegorz Szymanski said.
The canine was the main reason the girl survived, he said.
"This dog is the most important part of the story. He is a hero," Szymanski told Reuters. "It is thanks to this dog that the girl survived the night."
The child, Julia, was found several miles away from her home in Pierzwin, lying in a marsh with her stout, mixed-breed, black dog Saturday morning, the BBC reports.
Firefighters who found the two said the dog's barking helped locate the companions.
Juilia's grandmother said the dog was Julia's best friend.
"She was with this dog all the time. She didn't go anywhere without it. When she was with me, when I was looking after her, she constantly said, 'granny, the dog needs to come in the house. And she told me to cut bread and she fed it all the time," the grandmother said to Reuters.
The girl remains hospitalized in Western Poland on Monday, suffering from frostbite, after temperatures fell to 23 degrees Fahrenheit overnight. She is expected to survive.
Heroism by animals is not uncommon.
In January, two dogs kept a lost 6-year-old alive through freezing temperatures
Last October, a British woman dropped to the floor while choking on a chicken bone. Her 4-year-old Akita rushed to the owner from another room, hitting her back as if to apply a canine Heimlich maneuver that helped the woman cough up the bone.
Last month, a 10-year-old pit bull named Baby saved her Oklahoma family who were asleep as a fire spread in the house. Smelling the smoke, the dog barked loudly and jumped on sleeping family members to wake them up. The entire family, including five other dogs, survived the blaze, Oklahoma City's KOCO.com reported.
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