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Tuesday, December 05, 2006
By Liza Porteus
NEW YORK — When Eve and Norman Fertig
rescued a sick, two-week-old half wolf,
half German shepherd puppy from a breeder
almost seven years ago, they'd never
dreamed that the animal one day would
save their lives.
"God is watching; he's watching all
the time," Eve Fertig told FOXNews from
her home at the Enchanted Forest Wildlife
Sanctuary in Alden, N.Y.
He apparently was watching on Oct. 12,
when the 81-year-old Fertigs were treating
injured animals in the forest sanctuary on
their property. One such animal is a
near-18-year-old raven, while another is a
crow who was shot, blind in one eye with
two broken legs.
It was routine for the couple to feed and
exercise the dozen or so animals there
around 7 p.m. every night.
"While we're in there, the lights go out
and I realized something's wrong," Eve
Fertig said. "We go outside to see what's
happening and down comes one massive tree
… the trees came down across us."
The massive storm that hit upstate New York
that night felled trees, blocking the
Fertig's path to the other sanctuary
buildings — such as the school and
storage building — and to their home,
which was at least 200 feet away.
"We were in big trouble. … I said to my
husband, 'I think we could die out here,'"
The Fertigs huddled in a narrow alley
between the hospital building and the
aviary, where they were sheltered from
falling trees. They couldn't climb over
the trees without injuring themselves.
Neither had warm clothes on since it was
clear, crisp fall day just a few hours ago.
They hugged each other for warmth, since by
9:30 p.m., temperatures had dropped.
"I wasn't prepared for this … I thought,
'we're trapped, we're absolutely trapped,'"
Eve said. "That's when Shana began to dig
beneath the fallen trees."
The 160-pound dog that habitually follows
her owners around — Eve likens it to "Mary
had a little lamb," when the lamb went
everywhere Mary went — eventually found
the Fertigs and began digging a path in
the snow with her teeth and claws underneath
the fallen trees, similar to a mineshaft,
and barking as if to tell them to follow.
A reluctant Norm said, "I had enough in
Okinawa in a foxhole," referring to his
service in World War II.
"'Norman, if you do not follow me, I will
get a divorce,'" Eve said to her husband
of 62 years. "That did it. He said, 'a divorce?
That would scandal our family.' I said,
'all of our family is dead, Norman!'"
After Shana tunneled all the way to the
house — a process that took until about
11:30 p.m. — she came back, grabbed the
sleeve of Eve's jacket, and threw the
86-pound woman over her back and neck,
which Eve described as "as wide as our
Norman grabbed Eve's legs, and the dog
pulled them through the tunnel, under
the trees and through an opening in a
fence to the house, at which they arrived
around 2 a.m.
"It was the most heroic thing I've ever
seen in my life," Eve said. "We opened the
door and we just fell in and she laid on top
of us and just stayed there and kept us alive
… that's where we laid until the fireman
There was no electricity and no heat in
the house, so Shana acted as a living,
breathing generator for the exhausted
Fertigs until the local fire department
arrived the next morning.
Concerned neighbors — many of whom had
children Eve taught — who couldn't get
hold of the elderly couple via telephone
throughout the night had called the Town
Line Fire Department.
But when the fire department urged the
Fertigs to go to the firehouse to take
shelter along with 100 others, they told
them they would have to leave Shana behind.
"We said, 'we don't go anywhere without
her.' ... I said, 'we'll stay until the
people are gone and we'll take Shana,'"
So the couple stayed at home with Shana
until Sunday, when the firehouse emptied
out. During the three days in a house with
no power, heat or hot water, Shana slept
with her owners to keep them warm.
"She kept us alive. She really did,"
Also during that time, firefighters not
nly helped clear trees from their grounds,
but they brought food and water for both
humans and animal.
"They kept looking at that tunnel and
said, 'we've never seen anything like it,'"
she said. "I can't thank them enough —
When they went to the firehouse Sunday,
Shana followed the Fertigs everywhere, even
to the bathroom. And she was 'spoiled rotten'
by the fire crews there, Eve said.
She said the fire chiefs said her story of
being saved by her pet rejuvenated exhausted
fire teams. "The story, they said, just gave
them new hope."
Last Thursday, Shana received the Citizens
for Humane Animal Treatment's Hero's Award for
bravery — an award traditionally given to humans.
The plaque, complete with Shana's picture on it,
hangs in the Fertigs' living room, along with
other pictures of wolves the couple has worked
Eve, who teaches courses in Saving Endangered
Species and Caring for Injured and Orphaned
Wildlife at community colleges and trains animal
rehabilitators in New York, said she hopes her
story will help further her message of humanity
toward animals and educate people about how even
a wolf, if treated with care and dignity, can be
a "kisser and a hugger" like Shana.
"If you're vicious to a human being, they'll
become fighters," Eve said, but even wolves,
"once you treat them right and raise them in
your house, they're magnificent. "
Eve has taught 400 adults to be wildlife
rehabilitators. She and her husband are
volunteers who pay for their own teaching
licenses and caring for the sanctuary animals,
out of their Social Security checks every year.
"I've never been on a cruise and I don't shop
and I haven't seen a movie in two years,"
The only time the Fertigs go to the movies is,
of course, when they are submitting to a
"What I do to get signatures for my petitions,
I go to [a] movie that's showing a wolf, horse
or whale story," and she and her husband camp
out outside the theater and get petitions
signed to help save various animals, which
they send along to wildlife organizations.
"I have a motto ... joint abilities don't
create hostilities, " Eve said. "I make it
my business to talk to all groups, all
conservationists, all hunting clubs, to
let them know what they're missing out there."
Editor's Note: The Fertigs rely on food
donations to help feed the injured animals
they try to rehabilitate at their Enchanted
Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Alden, N.Y.
They told FOXNews.com that the Oct. 12 storm
completely wiped out their supply of food.
The Fertigs would welcome any donations.
Please contact them at 716-681-5918 if you
would like to donate or volunteer.
(this story reported by Fox News)