One sunny Sunday in August 2017, Melissa Butt had her grandkids over to her place in the Thonotosassa area of southwest Florida. Although Butt was elsewhere in the yard, she could hear the children having the time of their lives playing with her two dogs. And while she knew that her pit bulls could look after the kids, her blood ran cold when she heard the commotion from outside. You see, the dogs were barking wildly, and they sounded really angry.
Butt, 47, is an animal lover and the human mother of two young dogs – nine-month-old Paco and three-year-old Slayer. And both of her furbabies are, in fact, pit bulls. Originally bred to “bait” bulls, the breed of dog has been vilified in recent years for its violence and aggression.
Despite the undeserved bad reputation of the pit bull breed, though, Butt describes her dogs as “100 percent family.” And they are certainly great companions for her grandson and granddaughter, Zayden and Mallory. Indeed, on August 13, 2017, Paco and Slayer were doing a great job of entertaining the kids in Butts’ yard.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and 18-month-old Mallory and four-year-old Zayden were glad to be outside playing with the dogs. Butt herself was elsewhere in the garden, although she was close enough to the group to hear a sudden disturbance. Yes, Slayer and Paco, who were about three feet from the front door of the house, suddenly started making frantic sounds.
Butt’s blood ran cold despite the warm afternoon. Something was upsetting the two pit bulls, and they were making a big noise about it. What’s more, the dogs sounded somewhat unusual to their mom. In fact, Butt told CBS News on August 16, 2017, that “the dogs started acting a little funny.”
Butt recalled how Slayer and Paco “were barking and barking.” Apparently, according to the news site Today, the grandmother said the dogs were behaving “urgently” and wouldn’t “disengage on command.” Clearly something was spooking the dogs, and whatever it was appeared to be in a patch of grass by the front door that the pit bulls were standing over.
Subsequently, Butt got Mallory and Zayden safely in the house where their mother, Cynthia, was able to look after them. Then Butt returned to the yard with her husband, Daniel White, to see Paco and Slayer still standing sentinel. Indeed, the dogs hadn’t moved from their guarded position, and Butt and White soon discovered why.
The pit bulls were standing over a brown snake in the grass, perilously close to where Zayden and Mallory had been playing. The dogs’ barks were aimed at the large reptile, which sources have suggested was a deadly copperhead viper. Thankfully, Slayer and Paco had seen the danger and immediately leapt to the protection of the children.
It was actually the younger dog, nine-month-old Paco, who spotted the snake first, but three-year-old Slayer then came to his brother’s aid. Butt told CBS News, “My Slayer takes over all of those situations; he’s ultra-protective of the family.” Despite the pit bull’s best efforts at scaring the venomous snake away, however, the reptile held its ground.
And that’s not all the viper did, either. Yes, the serpent was more than ready to defend itself against the noisy assault. In fact, the copperhead sank its fangs into both dogs. First, the reptile bit Paco on the leg, which incited Slayer to launch an attack of his own. However, this only provoked the snake to turn on its second aggressor.
And before Slayer could finish off the yard intruder, the viper struck him twice in the face. It was, however, the last thing the snake would ever do, as Slayer then well and truly lived up to his name. As Butt told Today, the elder dog subsequently snapped the snake up in his powerful jaws.
“[After biting Paco,] that’s when Slayer grabbed the snake in his mouth and killed it,” she said. And Butt went on to describe how Slayer “almost bit [the snake] in half” to CBS News. But although the huge and venomous viper was dead, the pit bulls were still in danger.
You see, copperheads are extremely poisonous snakes, and now toxin from this particular viper was coursing freely through both dogs. In fact, they were already feeling its affects – which include breathlessness – so Butt knew that they would need immediate attention. And while Paco must have been suffering from the venom, it was Slayer who received the worst attack.
In less than 30 minutes of being bitten, in fact, poor Slayer’s face had already swollen to almost twice its size. Butt wasted no time getting her pets medical attention, however, and they were swiftly taken to a local veterinarian. Unfortunately, though, the dogs’ conditions were getting worse by the minute.
Furthermore, there was nothing else the local vet could do for Slayer and Paco, although she did have a suggestion. The vet recommended an emergency clinic called BluePearl – a 40-minute drive away in Brandon. So, Butt then sped off on what must have felt like one of the longest journeys of her life. She had adopted Paco and Slayer as pups and couldn’t bear the thought of anything bad happening to them.
And the situation was now getting critical. Today reported that when Dr. Shelby Loos at BluePearl saw the dogs, she said, “We have to act fast.” If the snake in question had been a copperhead, Loos knew that they have the least potent venom of their pit viper family group. However, she also knew that copperhead bites can still be lethal if they go untreated.
Slayer and Paco were treated with pain medication, anti-nausea medicine and, most importantly, antivenin. But while the younger dog was released a day later, Slayer’s prognosis was less positive. “It was devastating to see how bad [he] had gotten,” Butt said. She observed that his face had blown up to the extent that he “could barely get his tongue out” to kiss her.
After a few days at BluePearl and more antivenin treatment, though, Slayer was released from care and sent home to Thonotosassa to recover. And although Butt was thankful to have her pet home, she was not so pleased with the size of the veterinary bills. Luckily, however, help was at hand in the form of Frankie’s Friends, a Tampa-based charity that helps fund medical treatment for pets.
“Frankie’s Friends has been a blessing to our hero[es],” Butt wrote on a Facebook status update post. And heroes are exactly what Paco and Slayer have proved to be for the family. Yes, the pooches put their lives on the line to protect little Mallory and Zayden. And if the dogs hadn’t been there, things could have been so much worse.
“I know my dogs are heroes and without a doubt saved the lives of my grandchildren,” Butt told CBS News. “They are too small to have fought something off like that.” On Facebook, she concluded, “As bad as it is, we are lucky and blessed.”