VACAVILLE, Calif. -- On a cool California summer morning, retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Bridgette Fargo was walking her dog on their usual neighborhood route when every dog owner’s nightmare happened to her and her dog, Nemo.
While they were on their walk, an unleashed dog aggressively attacked Nemo and wouldn’t let go of its bite. Fargo rushed into panic and started screaming for help. She tried everything she could to make the other dog let go, but it was too strong.
“Many people came out of their homes to try and assist. However, no one was successful. Many cars drove by but did not stop. Understandably, because of the horrific scene,” Fargo said. “I was in a complete panic when Senior Airman Melis jumped out of his truck and rushed over to help!”
Senior Airman Andrew Melis, 60th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, was coming home from the gym in Vacaville, California, on the morning of the incident. As he was driving along the path where the attack happened, he saw people, vehicles, and some commotion.
“I pulled over and saw that a dog was being attacked by another dog,” Melis said. “Training kicked in. As soon as I got out of the truck and got ahold of the unleashed dog, I knew right away what to do, on how to remove him. I did what we were taught in kennel school, and it let go immediately.”
Melis controlled the unleashed dog, tried to calm it, and tend to its injuries until the owners finally came out. After helping Fargo file a police report, he drove her and Nemo home.
Fargo took Nemo to the emergency veterinarian and is in recovery. Both she and Nemo were traumatized by what had happened and she believes that Nemo could have been killed if it wasn’t for Melis’ quick reaction.
“He was in the right place at the right time. I have a strong belief in a higher power than us, and he was absolutely placed there for a reason,” Fargo said. “There were a lot of people there, but no one knew what to do. Melis had the skills that the Air Force taught him to react in an emergency.”
Melis recently completed the military working dog handler’s course at the 341st Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Its mission is to provide trained military working dogs and handlers for the Department of Defense, other government agencies and allies through training, logistical, veterinary support and research and development for security efforts worldwide.
“I just did what I was taught. When a dog doesn’t want to release on a bite, there are certain things that you do. I did one of those techniques, and it worked,” Melis said. “I felt safe once it let go of Nemo. I started to calm the dog down and it didn’t look like it wanted to bite me.”
Fargo wanted to share her thoughts with dog owners since this experience left her feeling vulnerable during the attack.
“If you are a dog owner, always make sure that your dog is on leash when you go on a walk,” Fargo said. “If your dog is in the backyard, make sure that your gate is always securely closed and locked.”
Melis also provided advice for dog owners or people who want to become a dog owner.
“There is more to dogs than just feeding and picking up after them. There’s the psychological part of owning a dog, understanding it, and understanding what it needs and wants,” Melis said. “If you really want to have a dog, make sure you’re willing to put in the work.”
Fargo expressed multiple times how truly grateful she is for Melis.
“He is an incredible man. When he drove by, without hesitation, he jumped out of his vehicle to assist,” Fargo said. “My family and I are forever grateful to him. If I could give the world to him, I would. He saved our family member.”
This incident occurred outside Travis AFB installation. However, for information with regards to the base pet policy within base housing, contact Travis Family Homes at (707) 437-4571 or to report unleashed pets on base, call Security Forces line at (707) 424-2800.