Hypothermia victim thanks Ottery man and dog who saved her life

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:16 17 June 2010

My heroes: Zoe, Boris and John

My heroes: Zoe, Boris and John

Copyright Archant Ltd

SHE was moments from death when they found her, but what appeared to be a gruesome discovery by one Ottery man and his dog has blossomed into an unlikely friendship.

SHE was moments from death when they found her, but what appeared to be a gruesome discovery by one Ottery man and his dog has blossomed into an unlikely friendship.

Zoe Christie, 21, has made a remarkable recovery after being found half dead, in the grip of severe hypothermia, in an Ottery field by John Richards, 69, and his dog Boris on a freezing November morning in 2004.

Zoe, who now lives in King Alfred Way, Newton Poppleford, had become lost as darkness fell when she was out walking. She spent two weeks in intensive care after medics battled for four hours to resuscitate her.

Having since become a care assistance, Zoe is looking forward to marrying fiancée Chris, 25, in Turkey in October but has never forgotten the duo who found her and a special bond has formed between them.

If you ask what John, of Oak Close, Ottery and boxer Boris mean to her the response is simple: "Everything, just everything."

She added: "We were total strangers but now know each others life stories. They will always be part of our family."

"John and Sheila (his wife) are first on the reception list when we come back to England they will be our guests of honour. I would love Boris to be there too."

It is now tradition for Zoe to pay the plucky duo a visit every Christmas and keep Boris, 13, supplied with bones.

John still gives all the credit to his canine friend. He said: "I had walked past her but Boris found her and wouldn't come, so I turned round and went back."

Thinking he had stumbled across a crime scene, John rushed to the town's hospital to call the emergency services.

Believing they were dealing with a dead body, a police helicopter landed near the scene only for an officer to find a slight pulse.

Zoe's heart stopped as the helicopter rushed her to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital where she had to have her blood, which was "like mush" re-circulated.

John added: "To see her getting married is absolutely brilliant- when I first saw her I thought that was it- I thought I had stumbled upon a crime scene- it was touch and go. I didn't ever think she would get here when I was trying to find a pulse and couldn't- It has all ended very well."

Zoe's dad Trevor, 40, of Yonder Street, will be a proud man when he gives his daughter away in October. He said: "I was taken in to formally identify the body. We never thought we would see the day. When she was lying there in intensive care- didn't know if she would have brain damage but she has made full recovery. She owes her life to that dog and his persistence."

As for a now grey Boris, who has shown similar bravery and powers of recovery after undergoing two knee operations, he may just be around to take up Zoe's invitation.

John added: "He's definitely got another 12 months to two years left in him. There is definitely a special bond. The first time Zoe came round Boris went crazy- and jumped on her and doesn't act like that with anyone else-They say dogs are stupid but I don't think so.

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