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A hero for the keeping: Abandoned as puppy, dog’s loyalty proved life-saving to woman who adopted him

Erma Iverson adopted the abandoned dog, Crackers, when he wandered onto her rural property in the Minnesota River Valley in 2005. He’s been a constant and life-saving companion ever since. (Submitted photo) 1 / 2
George Hines had the honor of representing his mother-in-law, Erma Iverson, when her faithful companion Crackers received his medal and proclamation as a “hero’’ from the Minnesota Veterinary Medicine Association a week ago today. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny) 2 / 2

WILLMAR — He arrived unexpectedly one summer day in 2005 as a ragged looking, dirty and skinny orphan.

One week ago, he looked absolutely regal as more than 400 people applauded as a medal proclaiming him a hero was ceremoniously placed around his neck.

He took his rise to fame in stride, according to George Hines, who accompanied Crackers to the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis for the annual convention of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association. The association on Feb. 9 inducted the mixed yellow lab, golden retriever named Crackers into its Animal Hall of Fame as the 2013 “hero’’ animal. It also inducted “professional’’ and “companion’’ animals into the Hall for their services to humans.

Crackers’ story is perhaps the best known. He very likely saved the life of the woman who had adopted him as an abandoned, six-month-old puppy in 2005.  

He stayed with Erma Iverson, 79, when she fell outside of her rural home in the Minnesota River Valley near Rock Valle on a late September afternoon in 2011.

Iverson remained on the cold ground, helpless for roughly 21 hours. The night air was chill and unwelcome visitors took advantage of the darkness to slink toward her. She struggled through the night to get back up but was unable to do so due to a medical condition.

She remembers going in and out of consciousness.

Crackers chased away raccoons, a deer with a fawn, and stood his ground to send the ghost-like images of coyotes retreating back into the darkness.

Always, he would return to lie alongside Iverson. Cracker’s faithfulness helped her ward off hypothermia and eased her fears, said Hines, who is Iverson’s son-in-law.

Iverson was found at 12:45 p.m. the next day by postal carrier Stan Boushek, who called for help. Iverson was close to succumbing to hypothermia. One eye was swollen shut, and her body overall was swollen, bruised and full of scratches from her struggles.

Today, Iverson is living comfortably with Crackers and her daughter, Diane, and son-in-law at their home in Tucson, Ariz. Iverson was unable to attend the award ceremony, but Hines was more than happy to represent her there.

Hines had nominated Crackers for the award nearly a year ago when he learned of it.  

Hines said they could hardly have picked a more deserving animal. From the day they adopted the abandoned puppy, Crackers has been a faithful and loyal companion, said Hines.

When Crackers first arrived, Iverson placed announcements on the radio in case an owner was searching for him. When no one responded, she was happy to make him her own.

Hines said the award celebrates the great things about our relationship with dogs. He and Iverson can only speculate as to why someone would have abandoned Crackers as a puppy, but they know this for sure. Their “hero’’ will never abandon them.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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