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Man is dog's, and woman's, best friend

He does not think he is a hero. Hero is a strong word. Maybe we should save hero for those who show courage in battle, or face the unthinkable and do not flinch. Those people are heroes.

All Larry Treichler did is save a dog's life. He might have saved the dog's owner, and her teenage daughter, from being mauled -- or worse. I do not know what the word is for that. To Karen Ragusa, the woman he helped, the word is hero.

In a season for giving thanks, Ragusa is thankful that Treichler came into her life.

Ragusa recently was walking her dog, a Beagle mix named Max, when they were seen by a neighbor's pit bull terrier. The pit bull had gotten out of its house and was running free. Within seconds, the pit bull had Max by the throat. This is what Ragusa wrote me in an e-mail:

My daughter and I were trying to get Max away. We both got bit in the process. The dog was not stopping and I knew Max was going to die. We could not get the dog off him. . . . I screamed like I have never screamed in my life. It was pure fear and desperation. I was witnessing my beloved dog being killed. It is an image that I pray will [someday] leave my mind.

At that moment, with the pit bull's teeth clamped on Max's throat, Treichler came into the Ragusas' life.

Out of nowhere came this big guy running towards us carrying a garden shovel. [He] got to us and lifted the shovel over his head and hit the pit bull's side. The dog did not budge. . . . Then he hit the dog on the head and the dog released and walked back towards where she came from.

Max, Ang and I got up and started walking (Max was limping) back towards our house. We were shocked and stunned. Then I heard the shovel guy calling to us to get our dog in the house. We hurried up as fast as we could and got into our garage. Our neighbor then called to tell us not to open our door as the pit bull was right outside the door.

Treichler is 30, a stocky guy from Tonawanda with a blond brush cut. He digs in-ground pools for a living. He was working with a crew that afternoon in Wheatfield, a few houses from Karen Ragusa's. He stopped when he heard two women screaming. Peering out of the hole, he saw a pit bull with its jaws clamped on another dog's throat, shaking it. A woman and a teenage girl were trying to pull the pit bull off of the dog.

"I just ran over and hit the [pit bull] in the ribs with the shovel," recalled Treichler, sitting recently in the living room of his neat, one-story home. "It didn't faze it. Then I hit it on top of the head, and it let go."

Ragusa took Max to a vet, then went with her daughter to an emergency room for their cuts and bite wounds. Treichler went back to work. He stopped by later to check on the Ragusas.

This man, who had no connection to us whatsoever, came running and saved our dog's life. . . . Many people [told us] that he may well have saved mine and Angela's lives too -- there is no telling what that dog would have done to us.

The pit bull was released back to its owner by Wheatfield Town Court Judge Robert Cliffe, on the promise that it would be better controlled. The owner was not fined. Cliffe told The Buffalo News that the dog did not have a violent history, and the owner agreed to restrictions. Ragusa remains wary of the neighbor's pit bull. She and others are pressuring the Town Board for tougher dog-control laws.

The story has a happy ending. The Ragusas took Treichler and his girlfriend out to dinner. They have since become friends.

"I don't consider myself a hero," Treichler said. "I just did what I could."

To Treichler, it does not seem like much. To Karen Ragusa, it was everything.


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