On Oct. 12, 2006, the 81-year-old Fertigs were treating injured animals at the Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary on their property. It was routine for the couple to feed and exercise the dozen or so animals there around 7 p.m. every night. While caring for the animals, the lights went out. Upon checking outside to see what was wrong, a massive tree came down, blocking their path. The huge storm hitting upstate New York that night effectively trapped them outside, at least 200 feet from their home.
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. They did not have warm clothes and hugged each other to combat the falling temperatures. They thought they might die in this place when Shana, their 160-pound dog, found them and began digging a path in the snow with her teeth and claws. She was tunneling under fallen trees, barking at them to follow.
After Shana tunneled all the way to the house — a process that took about two hours — 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 kitchen shelf.” 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. – five hours after Shana first found them.
They made it into the house. There was no electricity and no heat, so Shana acted as a living, breathing heat source for the exhausted Fertigs until the local fire department arrived the next morning. 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. They refused to go without her. 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,” Eve said. The firefighters looked at the tunnel Shana had dug and said they’d never seen anything like it. The Fertigs went to the firehouse once it had emptied out and they could bring their dog with them. She followed them everywhere, never letting them out of her sight. And Shana received some well-deserved spoiling by the fire crews for her heroic and loyal act. Eve Fertig said the story of their rescue by Shana encouraged exhausted fire teams. “The story, they said, just gave them new hope.”