Badger, a loyal 11-year-old Lab-Rottweiler mix, was abandoned in the woods as a puppy and rescued by his now forever-grateful owner, Derik Hodgson, over 10 years ago. Derik, a 71-year-old retiree, is a passionate photographer, outdoor enthusiast and life-long animal lover. Living alone in a remote cabin in Elgin, Ontario, Derik quickly grew to rely on Badger as soon as he brought him home – first as a trusted companion, and then as a faithful best friend. Little did he know that Badger would also eventually become his life-saving hero.
It was a frigid February afternoon with temperatures dipping below -20º Celsius. Derik noticed some eagles flying around above the lake near his cabin and decided to head out with Badger to capture some photographs. Worried the eagles might fly away quickly, he rushed out of the cabin with Badger and they set out towards the lake to capture a few quick photos. In his haste, Derik neglected to wear his winter jacket and left his cell phone behind.
Once they reached the edge of the lake, Derik continued walking onto the frozen waters with Badger alongside him. Suddenly, he lost his balance, slipped and fell down with extreme force on the ice. At first, Derik tried to get up on his own, but could not bring himself to his feet. Panic and shock overcame him, followed by severe pain that shot up his entire leg. The pain was a result of his leg being broken in two places along with a ruptured tendon – essentially crippling him on the ice with no one in sight. Derik tried yelling, desperately hoping for someone to hear him, but to no avail.
Sensing something was terribly wrong, Badger circled his owner, nudging him and barking. However, instead of getting up and leading them back home, Derik continued to lie on his back, shivering. Fading in and out of consciousness due to the pain and cold temperatures, he looked up to see Badger standing right over him and caught a glimpse of his red collar. Recalling the pair’s old skijoring days, Derik grabbed onto Badger’s collar firmly, and yelled “MUSH, BADGER, MUSH!” It was a very different scenario, but just as Derik knew he would, Badger recognized that he needed help and started to pull him ever so slightly off of the frozen lake.
Derik gripped even harder onto Badger’s collar, and Badger continued to pull him all the way back to his cabin – about a 400 metre stretch and up a slight hill. Once at the door, he was able to get inside his cabin and reach for his cell phone to call for help. By the time the ambulance arrived, paramedics reported that Derik was already on the verge of being severely hypothermic.
Today, Derik is still recovering at home after more than a year of many doctor and physical therapist appointments. He was hospitalized and confined to a wheelchair for several weeks until he regained his strength and mobility. Had it not been for Badger’s unwavering determination and devotion that day in coming to his rescue, Derik believes he definitely would not have made it off the ice in time and would have succumbed to his injuries. It was a close call, and Derik is eternally thankful that his best friend was there for him when he needed him most – ultimately saving his life.