A bark that saved a life

Ruth Collette was fortunate that Darcy Andersen was walking her dog Layla otherwise the fall Collette took may have ended much differently. It was Anderson who found Collette on the floor of the garage.

Neighbor and dog rescue woman who fell, nearly froze

Even though she was just a pup at the time, Layla, a chocolate lab mix, knew something was wrong on the morning of Oct. 8. She helped save a life.

Ruth Collette had fallen in her garage in northwest Austin. Meanwhile, a neighbor, Darcy Andersen, walked Layla through her neighborhood the night of Oct. 7 when she heard the owl she often hears, or so she thought. Andersen was wrong.

“I felt bad that I didn’t listen more that night,” she said.

The next morning, on another walk, Layla couldn’t resist the noises from the garage in the 1600 block of Fifth Avenue NW. Inside, Collette was yelling for help. Collette barely recalls any of it, and by the time Andersen and her dog found her, Collette’s body temperature had severely dropped.

“You couldn’t tell what was going on,” Andersen said while Layla pulled at the leash.

At Collette’s house, however, Anderson could finally hear yells for help and found the garage door still open. Collette had already lain disoriented on the ground for hours. Andersen got her daughter to come and help, and called 911 while her daughter put a pillow under Collette’s head and covered her.

Four months after her accident, which also caused two fractured vertebra, Collette still emphasizes how lucky she is to be alive. She could have died on a cold garage floor, but now she is continuously doing better.

“I’m glad to be alive,” she said. “They told me at the hospital that if I would have been there another two, three hours, I never would have woken up.”

Collette said the problems started in August, when she fell and had a concussion. She kept having memory lapses. But the last time, in October, nobody was around to help. Andersen said Collette wasn’t sure if someone robbed her or how long she had lain there.

“She was out of it for a few days,” Andersen said, who had to fill in the blanks for Collette.

“It was crazy,” Collette added. “I couldn’t believe when she told me about it.”

Perhaps Karma was on Collette’s side that day, as she has been recognized as an outstanding community volunteer by Semcac. She helps at the Senior Center and performs other community services on a regular basis.

Furthermore, the community was lucky Andersen was walking in the neighborhood. On that same day, Andersen smelled gas in the air and mentioned it to another, who thought nothing of it. Andersen reported it, and two homes had several gas leaks, which were immediately fixed.

Andersen may not be trying to save the world, but she keeps a keen eye, ear and even nose for danger.

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