Pit bulls often get an unfair rap for being aggressive, attack dogs. But that's not what Christi Smith, a stay-at-home mother from Minnesota, sees when she looks at her 10-month-old pit bull Tatortot. Smith rescued the dog from euthanasia last week, and soon after, he returned the favor by rescuing her son Peyton, 4, from near-death when the boy's blood sugar dropped to dangerous levels.
“I wouldn’t have known Peyton was in danger, had it not been for Tatortot,” Smith tells Yahoo! Shine. “He absolutely saved my son’s life.”
More on Yahoo Shine: The 10 Smartest Dog Breeds
When Smith, 28, met the dog in late September, she had no idea that he would turn into her family's hero. At the time, Ruff Start Rescue, a non-profit organization that specializes in neglected and abused dogs, had contacted Smith, who had previously fostered eight other pit bulls, and told her that Tatortot (then named Gator) was looking for a home. The group had first taken in the pup back in May, days before Minneapolis Animal Care and Control had planned to euthanize him. “I hesitated to take him in because I thought Tatortot might be too high-energy for my family,” says Smith. However, she instantly connected with the dog and agreed to foster him temporarily. “I renamed him Tatortot because Gator seemed too aggressive," Smith shares, "and I didn’t want people to associate him with anything that bites.”
Last Thursday evening, she was relaxing at home when Tatortot rushed into the room. “He was whining and barking, trying to get my attention,” Smith recounts. “And when he began running back and forth between mine and my son Peyton’s room, I got concerned.” She followed the dog into her son's bedroom where he jumped on the bed and began licking Peyton's face. However, Peyton was unresponsive.
More on Yahoo: Indiana Dog That Crashed Half-Marathon Gets Medal
“My heart stopped, I completely panicked,” she says. “Peyton's breathing was shallow and there were long pauses between each breath.” Knowing she could reach the hospital faster than an ambulance would arrive, Smith scooped up her son and got in the car. After they arrived at the hospital, doctors woke Peyton with a shot of adrenaline and diagnosed him with low blood sugar, a possible sign of diabetes.
Pit bulls don’t have a reputation for being gentle giants, much less breeds that can help save lives. However, according to Natalie Zielinski, Behavior Program Manager at the Wisconsin Humane Society, they're simply misunderstood. Pit bulls were bred from heavy, muscular bulldogs, and because of their strength, were often used for 'bull baiting,' a blood sport in England that involved pit bulls antagonizing bulls. "Unfortunately, their reputation as fighters stuck, although research shows that pit bulls are no more aggressive than golden retrievers," Zielinski tells Yahoo Shine.
It's possible that Tatortot, like many other dogs, reacted to an odor produced by Peyton's body when his blood sugar dropped, although according to Zielinski, it's a bit of a mystery how dogs are able to do it.
Since Tatortot's rescue, he's been enjoying his new found fame on Facebook. His page Tatortot, the Amazing Pit Bull has racked up almost 2,000 likes in the past week. And he's in the running for a new job, too. "I plan to train Tatortot to be a medical alert dog or a therapy dog so he can visit the elderly or terminally ill children," says Smith. "Hopefully he can bring new life to people, just as he did with Peyton."
More on Yahoo Shine:
10 Things Dogs Can Teach Us About Relationships
Dog Alerts Parents to Abusive Babysitter
Dog Still Seeking a Home After Eight Years in the Shelter