Brian Kelly for Reader's Digest
Kenneth Hansen, 46, was working late one May evening two years ago, putting the last pieces of siding on a home in Gratiot County, Michigan. He glanced up from his saw to see his brother frantically waving his arms. Then he heard screaming. Standing on the back porch of the home next door was a little boy yelling “Help!” while four rottweilers growled, barked, and snarled in a circle below him.
At first, Hansen thought it was just a dogfight. Then alarm bells went off in his head. “The noises they made sounded like what dogs do when they’re killing something,” he says.
His hunch proved right when another young boy suddenly popped up in the middle of the dogs, and Hansen watched in horror as they sank in their teeth and flung him across the grass like a small doll.
“That’s when I realized he wasn’t wearing a red-and-white shirt like I’d thought,” says Hansen. “He was shirtless and covered in blood, and those dogs were trying to kill him.”
Hansen raced across the grass, vaulted a six-foot-high chain-link fence, and landed in the neighbor’s yard. He shouted at the dogs, but they ignored him. He amped up the aggression, yelling louder until they let go just long enough for Hansen to grab eight-year-old Ethan Nokes around the belly and bear-hug him. “I couldn’t grab him under his armpits, which would have made it easier to run, because they were ripped wide open,” says Hansen.
As Hansen sprinted across the yard, the dogs leaped on him, biting at Ethan. The boy pleaded with Hansen, “Kill me, just kill me!”
Hansen hit the stairs to the back deck running. So did the dogs. When he reached the top, he pulled on a patio door; it wouldn’t open. “A dog grabbed Ethan’s foot, and I thought they were going to get him back from me,” he says. Hansen yanked on a second door. It sprang open. He rushed inside the apartment, followed closely by the dogs scratching at his legs. He opened a bedroom door a crack, shoved Ethan in, then slammed it shut. He turned and faced the dogs that were surrounding him, growling and barking. “I knew I had to get the dogs outside,” he says.
Hansen screamed and yelled—even chased one of them around the couch—until he got them out onto the deck and shut the glass door. The dogs sat outside, glaring at him.
With the house quiet, he went to check on Ethan in the bedroom. The boy was covered in blood, still crying, “Kill me.”
“You’re not going to die,” Hansen assured him. “They’ll sew you up, and you’ll have a bunch of stitches to show your buddies at school.”
Suddenly, the door flew open. There stood Ethan’s step-grandmother, the homeowner, checking on Ethan. The four dogs—teeth bared—were at her feet. Hansen leaped for the door, slamming it in her face.
Paramedics arrived soon after, and Ethan was airlifted to a Grand Rapids hospital, where he underwent surgery for the more than 30 bite wounds he’d suffered from head to toe, some to the muscle. Hansen, meanwhile, walked away with scratches on his legs and forehead. It’s still unclear what sent the rottweilers into kill mode, but later that month, a judge ordered them euthanized.
Today, Ethan is fully recovered, and Hansen has become more than his savior. “I have a son the same age. Ethan and his brother come watch us race cars and even stay overnight,” Hansen says. Clearly uncomfortable with the “hero” tag, he adds, “I didn’t even think. My reaction was instant.”