Gudrun Mastriano saying goodbye to Dante.

Gudrun Mastriano can say honestly that a dog really is man’s best friend or in this case, her hero. Dante, a 3 year old Black Labrador was left with Mastriano in Kissimmee, Florida for a few weeks while her daughter, Charlotte, and son-in-law, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Carl Eierle moved into the naval base in Madrid, Spain. It was a choice that saved Mastriano’s life.

While out for a walk in the park with Dante, merely one week before the Labrador was due to join his owners in Spain, the two happened to cross paths with an unwelcome, highly venomous cottonmouth snake. The reptile struck just a few inches from Matriano’s feet, before the serpent could coil to strike again Dante jumped into to action, honorably defending his temporary master.

Grabbing the snake in his mouth, Dante flung it away from Mastriano. While he wrangled with the snake it managed to give venom laden bites to both his legs and a horrible attack on his muzzle causing a large amount of swelling. Seventeen inches of swelling to be exact, say officials from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“It could have been me, I would have died”, Mastriano stated to the Orlando Sentinel.

Once the snake disappeared off into the grass, Mastriano took a shaken and sore Dante straight to Celebration Animal Clinic and Veterinary Health Associates, an emergency veterinary clinic in Winter Haven where he was treated. After being given antivenom and being stabilized he was transferred to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals medical center in Lakeland.

While at the SPCA clinic Dante had to have seven treatments in their Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy unit. The treatments, which cost $125 per visit, help to reduce the swelling safely and painlessly by delivering concentrated oxygen into the damaged cells to speed healing, informed Kim Domokos, one of the SPCA veterinarians who treated Dante.

After two months of treatment Dante was ready to join the rest of his family in Spain. “I thought he looked like a little baby hippopotamus,” Mastriano said of Dante’s swollen face and legs at Orlando International Airport as she prepared her goodbyes to the now fit and normal looking dog.

“We’re just happy to see him healthy and going home for the holidays,” Domokos told the Orlando Sentinel. She wanted to also see the brave Labrador had a proper send off at the airport.

Mastriano finally bid a heartfelt and teary farewell to her loyal daredevil friend as she loaded him into his travel crate which was aptly labeled with “Traveling Hero”. A hero, coming home to celebrate with his long awaiting family, just in time for the holiday season.

Written by Renee Rhoades-Harrison