‘Hero’ dog bitten by snake while protecting animal control worker

Hero dog bitten by snake while protecting animal control worker

A rattlesnake, an animal control officer, and a protective dog. They're three characters in a tale that starts as a tragedy, and ends with happy tears.

GRANTS, N.M. — Officer Osie Lopez has been with the Grants Animal Control Department for about three months now, but she experienced something earlier this month that some officers don’t see in their entire careers.

She was locking up the animal care center and making sure all of the animals had food and water for the night, until she heard four dogs barking in one of the center’s outdoor kennels.

“What are you guys barking at?” she said. “What are you guys being so silly for? And I went back there and I noticed all of them were fixated on one point and it happened to be a rattlesnake.”

It wasn’t the first one seen on the property this year.

“I grabbed the bucket and I grabbed the tongs. And by the time I went back out there, they were kind of teasing at it,” Lopez said. “Before I could catch the snake with the tongs, Marlee came around me, and then went right at the head. And he bit the head and then like shook it and threw it up.”

Marlee did it all to protect Lopez. Marlee came into the shelter as a stray in March, and quickly became a favorite.

“He’s very protective. I guess when the other dogs seem a little aggressive or they’re rough and stuff he’ll go right in front of us and tell them to knock it off. So he’s, he’s really sweet,” Lopez said.

When Marlee got the snake, the snake also got him.

“Immediately his tongue started swelling,” Lopez said.

She said antivenom isn’t in their budget so she gave him Benadryl and came back to check on him about an hour later. That’s when Dr. Carla Sand, a volunteer veterinarian, had to get involved.

“The swelling was so bad, it was almost obstructing his airway,” Sand said. “He was unable to close his mouth. His tongue was probably about five times the size of normal.”

Sand and another vet in Grants worked on him for a few days, then made the decision to bring him to a specialty vet in Algodones.

“He continued to deteriorate because his tongue was becoming necrotic, the tissue was dying,” Sand said. “They ended up taking off about two-thirds of his tongue. He quickly got better after that.”

Meanwhile, Marlee’s story started making the rounds on social media, and caught the attention of a national group — Chesapeake Bay Retriever Rescue. Now he’s off to a good home in Las Cruces.

Marlee’s vet bills came out to about $9,000, so the Chesapeake Bay Rescue is collecting donations to help.

The shelter in Grants is at almost double its capacity — with almost two dozen dogs having to stay outside — so they’re also asking for more fosters and adopters to step up.