Zeus, a 9-month-old Pit Bull, played in his Webster, Fla., yard last week as 10-year-old Oriley Richardson and his 11-year-old brother, Orion, cleaned the young dog’s water bowl.
Suddenly Zeus pounced on the ground near the boys and started attacking something. Oriley thought Zeus was playing with a rope.
But it wasn’t a rope. It was a venomous coral snake. These snakes, with red, yellow and black bands, live in the southeastern United States. According to National Geographic, this snake is “famous as much for its potent venom as for the many rhymes — ‘Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack'”—created to help distinguish between coral snakes and other non-venomous snakes with similar skin patterns.
Zeus used his body to cover the coral snake, laying on top of it to prevent it from moving toward the boys.
The dog’s eyes looked “bugged out,” the children’s’ mother, Gina Richardson, told CNN. When they turned Zeus over, they saw he had bitten off the snake’s head — but not before the snake bit him four times.
Although the Richardson family rushed Zeus to an animal hospital and a veterinarian immediately gave him anti-venom medication, the hero dog died the next day.
“I just started bawling,” Richardson told CNN. “My kids woke up and heard me crying and then they too started crying. We were all an emotional wreck.”
What’s even more heartbreaking is that Zeus died on Oriley’s birthday. “He was a good boy and I loved him with all my heart,” Oriley told CNN. “I played with him all the time. I feel sad and I miss him.”
The vet bill for Zeus was $1,000. But the Richardson family doesn’t have to worry about paying it, thanks to donations to a GoFundMe fundraiser from animal lovers touched by the Pit Bull’s heroism.
That heroism is the one upside to this tragedy. Zeus has been making national headlines for saving the lives of those boys.
Their father, Gary Richardson, told CNN that Zeus was his best friend. “I’m torn between wanting to be happy that this situation has brought awareness to his breed and their kind and loving nature, and the sorrow of having lost him,” he said.
He told FOX 35 Orlando that although he’d had many different animals in his life, “Pit Bulls are the most loyal dog I know of.” (I agree wholeheartedly.)
Gina Richardson noted that if a Pit Bull is aggressive, “most likely, it’s because they weren’t treated right,” she told FOX 35 Orlando. “If you treat them right, they would give their life for you and I owe my son’s life to him.”
Rest in peace, Zeus, and thank you for being such a very good boy.