Real Name: Norman
Case: Animal Heroes
Location: Necanicum River, Oregon
Date: August 5, 1996
Details: Annette McDonald and her dog, Norman, often walk along the shore of a tidal estuary in Seaside, Oregon. Norman is a yellow lab, a kind of dog often used to guide the blind. In this case, however, the roles are reversed. He is blind due to a genetic disorder, and Annette guides him. If he is about to bump into something, she will say “easy, easy”, and he will know to stop. If she throws a stick and he does not hear where it lands and goes in the wrong direction, she tells him to go the other way. He will usually turn around and go the other way. She and her husband, Steve, adopted him the day before he was scheduled to be euthanized at the dog pound.
On August 5, 1996, Annette was guiding Norman, then three-years-old, through their usual game along the Necanicum River when he suddenly reacted to a different sound. He took off running down the shore; she was surprised that he could go that fast. She tried to call him back, worried he would hurt himself, but he ignored her completely.
Meanwhile, fourteen-year-old Lisa Nibley was swimming in the water with her brother Joey when they got caught in a dangerous undertow of the incoming tide. He was able to reach shore, but she was not. As she tried to stay above the water, she was having a hard time getting enough air in. Her lungs were burning because it was so hard for her to breathe. Her face felt like it was on fire because she was screaming so loud for someone to help her. Amazingly, Norman started swimming straight toward her. Annette was shocked that he seemed to know exactly what to do to save Lisa.
When Lisa saw Norman heading toward her, she stopped screaming. He became instantly disoriented. Annette suddenly realized that he had been following Lisa’s voice. She told Lisa to call him. The moment Lisa called him, he got his bearings and swam straight toward her. Annette felt that it was the most helpless moment in her life. She felt that everything was depending on Norman to get out there and get to Lisa because Annette was not a swimmer and there was no way for her to help.
When Norman swam out to Lisa, she grabbed onto him. However, she immediately lost her grip because her arms were shaking with fatigue. Incredibly, he came back for another try. He turned around and swung himself around so that she could grab onto his back. He then started swimming back to shore with her. She felt that he knew that he had to help her and that he knew what he was doing. To her astonishment, he towed her to shore as though he had been trained for it all his life.
Moments later, they were back in the shallows, safe. Lisa feels that Norman was her guardian angel; she was so happy that he was able to save her. Neither she nor Annette understand what mysterious instinct inspired a blind dog to risk his life for a stranger, but she will be forever grateful to her hero, Norman.
Lisa's family had hoped to repay Norman's heroism by helping him get his sight restored. Sadly, a veterinarian determined that the genetic disease Norman suffers from cannot be cured with surgery.
- This case first aired on the June 4, 1999 episode about animal saviors, along with a pig named Lulu.
- It was also featured on It's a Miracle.
- Some sources incorrectly state that the incident occurred on August 5, 1997.
- Similar cases of hero dogs include: Harley, Boo, Oscar, Mia, and Shadow.
- Hero may get sight - August 14, 1996
- Blind Labrador saves teenage girl from drowning - August 17, 1996
- Labrador Named Norman Saved Girl From Drowning - August 21, 1996
- Dog goes blind - August 21, 1996
- Blind dog saves girl in river - August 21, 1996
- Surgery Can't Aid Hero Dog -- Blind Canine Kept Girl From Drowning In River - August 21, 1996
- A sad fate awaits dog who saved little girl's life - August 22, 1996
- Heroic dog may get his sight back - September 8, 1996
- Brave Hearts: A Labrador Retrieved Her - July 14, 1997
- Blind dog rescued from pound saves 14-year-old girl! - January 30, 2001