Toddler Bryson Holloway was playing in his yard when his family’s dog appeared to turn on him. The Australian Shepherd lunged towards the child, causing his onlooking father to panic. And it soon became clear that the animal had indeed gone into attack mode.
The Holloway family live in Sevier County, Tennessee. The brood consists of mom Alicia, dad Bryan and their three children. In summer 2016 their youngest son Bryson was just 18 months old. And he had found a best friend in the family’s pet dog, Shiloh.
Describing the special relationship his son and the Australian Shepherd enjoyed, in 2016 Bryan told TV news station WATE, “They just do everything together. As much as he loves everybody else, those two, the baby and that dog, have a bond.”
Shiloh had first become part of the Holloway family while just a puppy in January 2009. Alicia had heard about the dog through a friend, who owned Shiloh’s dad Dakota. One day, she witnessed how protective Dakota was of his family. So, she decided she’d like one of his offspring.
Ever since then, Shiloh has constantly looked out for the Holloway clan, and has been particularly protective of the three children. “He’s a very loving, affectionate dog,” Alicia told the Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper in 2016, adding, “He will not let anything happen to those boys.”
Frequently, Shiloh could be found outside in the Holloway’s yard, playing fetch with Bryson. One day in summer 2016 the pair had gone outside to enjoy some time together. However, that’s when the dog’s demeanor took a strange and worrying turn.
Before the incident, both Bryan and Alicia had been relaxing outside in the yard. Baby Bryson was also making his way out. But when the toddler went to step off the porch, Shiloh the dog suddenly charged towards him.
Recalling the terrifying scenes that day, Bryan later explained to WATE, “Shiloh jumped up and took off after him. He lunged right towards the baby and at the baby’s feet, and when he did he kind of jerked back.”
At first, Bryan had been concerned that Shiloh had turned on his son. However, when the dog stopped at the baby’s feet, his wife Alicia came up with a much more innocent explanation for her pet’s strange behavior.
When Shiloh jumped up off the floor with a yelp, Alicia suggested the animal had simply seen a bug. “I said [to my husband], ‘That dog is the biggest baby in the world,’” she revealed to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “He like flips out over those big beetles, and I said, ‘It’s probably just a beetle.’”
But it soon became clear that Shiloh’s reaction had not been caused by a mere insect. Seconds after the dog lunged towards Bryson, Bryan noticed a deadly snake just inches away from where his son had been standing. “As soon as I saw it, I did, I knew it was a copperhead,” he told WATE.
Copperheads are a venomous variety of snakes with bites that can induce many painful symptoms in humans. While textbooks will tell you that attacks are unusual and rarely fatal, nonetheless a bite could have potentially been very dangerous for someone as little as Bryson.
However, thanks to Shiloh, the Holloways’ toddler had been kept out of harm’s way. After ordering his wife to take Bryson inside, Bryan realized that the dog might just have saved his son’s life. “It dawned on me that he literally grabbed that snake from… near the baby’s foot,” he told TV news channel WVLT in 2016.
However, in protecting little Bryson, the fearless dog had put his own life in danger. While the animal had despatched the snake, he had also sustained a bite to his lower lip. “Turning his head to the side and shaking his head and you could tell he’d been hurt,” Bryan revealed to WATE.
Soon, Shiloh’s neck had become so swollen that his owners were forced to take off his collar. “The snake had gotten him,” Bryan told WATE. “As furry as he is, and he has so much fur around his neck, you could visibly see the swelling.”
The Holloways treated their heroic hound with antibiotics and antihistamines at home, before taking him to a veterinary clinic where he received further medication and pain relief. The vet bill was more than the family could really afford, Alicia told the Knoxville News Sentinel. But they had the animal to thank for saving their son, so they handed over the money without qualms.
Seeing their big dog’s physical reaction to the copperhead venom made the Holloways wonder what might have happened if the snake had attacked Bryson instead. “He’s 24 pounds, and I believe that it would have killed him,” Alicia told WATE.
Speaking to WVLT, the relieved mother added, “I honestly don’t think he would be here. I really don’t think we could have made it to the hospital. Even if we did, best-case scenario would have been a 50/50 fighting chance.”
Thankfully, with veterinary intervention, Shiloh soon began to recover from his ordeal. And to help him along, the Holloways indulged the dog’s every whim. “He’s been babied a whole lot since this has happened, because we’re very, very grateful for him,” Alicia explained to WVLT.
Indeed, it didn’t look like Alicia and Bryan were going to stop being thankful any time soon. And it was their faith that they credited with bringing Shiloh into their lives. “We give God the glory in everything,” Alicia said. “We know that He used that dog, that wonderful dog, to protect him, and we’re thankful every day for him now.”