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Pit bull saves Gwinnett woman from drowning, owner says

Abby Leathers was settling down with a cup of tea on the morning of Feb. 5 when her 5-year-old pit bull Bruce wouldn’t stop fussing at the door of her Lawrenceville home.

“He was scratching at the windows, and I was like ‘Bruce, stop, we rent this place,’ ” Leathers said. “He kept scratching, sniffing under the door. Then he barked, and he never barks, so I knew something was going on.”


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When Leathers opened the front door, Bruce bolted toward a pond in the front yard before Leathers could put his leash on. Leathers ran after him and found an elderly woman, half naked, “disoriented” and walking in the deep pond. It was early in the morning, and the low in Lawrenceville that day was 36 degrees.

“It was not a day when you wanted to be outside,” Leathers said.

Leathers tied Bruce around a nearby tree and ran inside to grab a blanket and robe for the woman. The woman was speaking a language Leathers didn’t recognize or understand. Once the woman was clothed, dry and inside, Leathers called 911. 

Three police officers and three paramedics responded, and, after about an hour, learned the woman was of Ethiopian descent and was speaking Amharic. She lived in the same neighborhood as Leathers and had been reported missing by her family the day before. They were reunited shortly after police arrived.

It was not clear why the woman had gone to Leathers’ home. She lives nearby with family and had wandered away from home one time before this occurred, Leathers said.

“Without Bruce, I would have never known she was out there,” Leathers said. “If I hadn’t gone out there, I don’t know what would have happened. I don’t know if she knew how to swim. She could have drowned.”

Bruce, a 5-year-old pit bull, is credited with saving a woman that was found disoriented and walking in a pond in Lawrenceville.

The incident made Leathers a proud pet owner. She believes pit bulls are a misunderstood breed, stereotyped as prone to spontaneous acts of violence. The city of Atlanta approved harsher penalties for owners of dogs deemed dangerous in June after two children were attacked by a pit bull in January 2017, leaving one child dead. 

Leathers, a veterinary technician, said she’s never felt threatened by a pit bull, and that she’s been bitten by dogs like Huskies and Dachshunds, which are commonly considered less dangerous.

“For me, working with animals every day, there are some breeds of dog I would not have, that I would not trust around kids,” Leathers said. “To me, pit bulls are not one of them.”

Leathers is thankful that Bruce wouldn’t stop fussing at the door that Monday morning.

“It’s not that I didn’t think he was amazing, but I definitely didn’t think he was going to save a lady’s life last week,” Leathers said.


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