On the afternoon of May 16th, as Erin Wilson and Eva, her 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, went for a walk along a remote river in Northern California, a mountain lion suddenly pounced on Erin from behind. When Erin screamed for Eva, her dog immediately sprang into action.
As Eva and the mountain lion fought, Erin threw rocks and did whatever she could to pull the big cat off her dog, to no avail. Erin ran to the highway for help as the mountain lion dragged Eva off the trail by the dog's head. A good Samaritan named Sharon Houston stopped to help. Using a tire iron and a PVC pipe, Erin and Sharon were able to scare off the mountain lion.
Eva survived the attack but was severely injured. Erin rushed her to VCA Asher in Redding, the closest animal hospital, although it was a 90-minute drive.
If this all sounds familiar, it may be because the story of Eva's heroic act quickly went viral, appearing in news outlets worldwide. It was even mentioned on the Weekend Update segment of "Saturday Night Live."
Saving a hero dog's life
After Eva saved Erin's life, it was up to the VCA Asher team to keep the hero dog's life.
Eva had sustained two fractures to her skull, a sinus cavity puncture and severe swelling around her left eye. During the drive to the hospital, she had started having convulsions.
"Most of the injuries that Eva sustained were to the face and head, which makes it all the scarier, of course," says Monique Mongeau, DVM, the veterinarian who treated her. "Because then we're dealing with the whole neurologic portion of it."
Erin was also injured and, understandably, devastated about what had happened to her beloved dog. "I was like, 'Can I please give you a hug?' And Erin was really receptive to that," Dr. Mongeau recalls.
The first concern of the VCA Asher staff was getting Eva stabilized. "A lot of our treatment focused on managing her intracranial pressure and making sure that it wasn't increasing," Dr. Mongeau says. Eva was given a dose of hypertonic saline to help reduce the pressure in her brain, along with anti-seizure and pain medications.
A "miraculous" recovery
Amazingly, Eva started showing an improvement within an hour. The VCA Asher staff closely monitored Eva’s heart rate/rhythm, blood pressure and respiratory rates to try to correlate these rates with possible changes in her intracranial pressure. "The technicians worked to monitor Eva’s vitals and mental activity hourly, all while continuing to care for their other inpatients," Dr. Mongeau says.
“Her progression was pretty fast in terms of recovery," Dr. Mongeau says. "To be honest, it was pretty miraculous. ”
By Eva's second day at VCA Asher, she was able to stand up with help. "I was very surprised," Dr. Mongeau says. "Her progression was pretty fast in terms of recovery. To be honest, it was pretty miraculous."
Two factors Eva had going for her were that she was a young, otherwise healthy dog—and she was a Belgian Malinois, the same breed of dog that took down Osama bin Laden. "We know how strong their personalities are, and they're known for persevering," Dr. Mongeau says. "So I told Erin I didn't know what Eva’s outcome was going to be, but I could tell her I was going to try my very best."
By her third day in the hospital, Eva could walk around on her own and recovered well enough to be released the following day.
Meanwhile, Eva the hero dog touched hearts around the world. A GoFundMe account to cover the cost of her medical bills quickly raised over $35,000 before Erin closed it. In an update on the GoFundMe page, Erin wrote that she will donate much of the unused money to charities, including Belgian Malinois and big cat rescue organizations.
Eva continued to do well during her first couple of weeks at home. "She was getting back to her normal self," Dr. Mongeau says. "Her fractures had been healing well."
Erin posted photos on the "Eva B The Maligator" Instagram account, which has over 21,000 followers, that showed Eva enjoying her life by going on a walk and interacting with her dog buddy, Mishka.
An unexpected turn for the worse
Unfortunately, three weeks after the attack, Eva suddenly began having seizures. "We took her to VCA to get her checked out," Erin wrote on Instagram on June 7. "Upon arrival she perked up, but we left her for observation overnight as a precaution. I am so glad we did." Overnight, Eva had three grand mal seizures.
"Upon hearing the news in the morning about Eva’s seizure activity, I immediately recommended referral to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for a complete work up and advanced imaging (CT/MRI),” Dr. Mongeau says. "Erin and her husband were very receptive and brought her to UC Davis that morning."
Eva continued to have seizures at UC Davis. Sadly, she became comatose and neurologically unresponsive, and had to be put on a ventilator.
On Instagram the next day, Erin wrote, "We said goodbye at 9:20 this morning. There were no changes to her condition overnight. Goodbye my beautiful sweet girl. You are my world, my light, my best friend."
People from around the globe expressed their shock and sadness about Eva. "Today the whole world cries," wrote anthonyorsini on Instagram. "Thankful she got a few more weeks with you after the attack but so sad to lose such a wonderful dog."
"What a tough cookie and amazing companion," wrote jerrmanji. "She won the whole world over with her grit and heroism. And then she even got to go home with you again, even if it wasn't for as long as we'd all hoped."
"I had really hoped with all my heart that Eva could get the seizures under control and have a long, happy life like she deserved," Dr. Mongeau says. "I am so very sorry for Erin and her family’s loss. Eva was nothing short of a hero and will be dearly missed. I will never forget Eva and will use her case as a learning experience for the future."
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