Everyday Heroes: “I Carried Him Down the Mountain”

How hiker Andi Davis saved the life 
of a 50-pound pit bull.

By Melody Warnick
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine June 2014

heroes woman pitbullSpencer Heyfron/Redux for Reader’s Digest

The trail through the 
Phoenix Mountains Preserve wasn’t usually so deserted. Even on her 
regular predawn trek, Andi Davis, 
49, regularly crossed paths with 
a handful of other hikers. On this morning, however, she heard only coyotes howling among the cacti 
and spiky ocotillos.

A half mile in, where the trail sloped steeply, Andi used her hands to clamber up to the highest peak. When she finally reached the summit, she noticed a dark shape inches 
from her left foot. She startled, then stared. It’s a dog, she said to herself, and it’s dead. She took a moment 
to realize that the dog’s eyes were open. A thin, dirt-caked pit bull was looking at her.

Instantly, Andi was afraid. She 
was a sucker for strays; she, her 
husband, Jason, and their ten-year-old daughter, Jessica, had three at home. But ever since a pit bull had attacked her German shepherd when she was out walking him one day, she’d been wary of pit bulls. She murmured a greeting to show she was friendly. At the sound of her voice, the pit bull trembled violently.

Andi inched closer and dripped some water into the dog’s mouth. 
He tried to stand up but then collapsed. Something was wrong with his left front leg. Andi pulled out her phone to contact her husband, but he didn’t respond. Pity overwhelmed her, and she knew that if she didn’t carry the dog down the mountain, 
he would die.

She carefully put her arms under the injured dog’s body. He was so weak, “he literally fell into my chest,” she says.

Staggering down the steep, rocky mountainside with the 50-pound 
animal in her arms, Andi repeated, “It’s OK. It’s OK,” more to soothe 
herself than the dog. Would she fall? Would he bite her? When her arms and back started aching, she refused to give in to the pain. The trip up had taken 30 minutes; going back down took twice that.

At home, Andi’s husband finally 
received her messages. He and Jessica jumped into the car and drove to 
the parking lot. Just as Jason was 
pulling up, Andi stumbled into the 
lot with the dog cradled in her arms. “He’s hurt!” Andi warned as her daughter leaped from the car. “Stay back, and be careful.” Jessica began to cry when she saw the dog’s injuries.
Then the pit bull lifted his head and tenderly licked Jessica’s cheek. Once in the backseat, he laid his head on Jessica’s lap, and she pulled the thorns from his matted coat 
on the way to the Arizona Humane Society.

Later that morning, an X-ray 
revealed that a bullet had landed in the dog’s shoulder and shattered the bone, but it was too close to surrounding blood vessels to be safely removed. There was a chance, too, that the dog would lose his damaged leg, though the vet thought it might heal on its own. (It did.)

A few days later, the Davises 
returned. Andi reports that “the 
first thing he did was give me a kiss, then go right to my daughter.” Any reservations Andi might have had evaporated right there. They named the dog Elijah and brought him home that day.

Since then, “he’s been perfect,” says Andi. He plays happily with 
the family’s Boston terrier and 
jumps into Jessica’s bed to snuggle every morning. Elijah’s calm, 
affectionate nature makes the wounding and abandonment on 
the mountain inexplicable. “He’s 
so sweet. Why would someone 
shoot him?” Andi asks.

The Davises realize they’ll never know. They’re just relieved the 
story has had a happy ending.

Says Jessica, “He was meant to 
be ours.”

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