When Matthew Van De Riet saw a basset hound's sad eyes at the side of a highway on Monday morning, he didn't expect to find a car crash just up ahead.
He also didn't expect to end up taking care of two dogs that had been thrown from the vehicle, so that the owners could focus on their recovery.
He says he's no Good Samaritan — it's just the Nova Scotia way.
"I saw the basset hound... I mean, it must have looked at me and just said, 'Thank God,' because she pretty much just jumped right in my arms," Van De Riet said.
That's when he saw the dust and debris surrounding a white sports car up ahead, its wheels up and its roof caved in.
"I put [the dog] right in the truck and then started going to work on the owner," said Van De Riet.
He found a young couple inside the car, which had crashed around 11 a.m. AT on a remote stretch of Highway 104 between Bible Hill and New Glasgow.
'I knew the pups were shaken'
The Milford, N.S., man got a first-aid kit from his van, made sure a bystander had called 911 and, with the help of another, started opening "every Band-Aid and piece of gauze" in his kit to try to stem the bleeding from the female passenger.
A nurse arrived at the scene and took over from him, he said.
That's when Van De Riet turned his attention back to the dogs, worried that if the couple were taken to hospital by ambulance or helicopter, the pups might be stranded.
He'd learned the couple had only moved to Nova Scotia two months ago. The man was serving at CFB Greenwood and neither he nor his girlfriend had family in the area.
"I figured the least I could do was take those dogs home with me," he said. "I knew the pups were shaken up — and I know if somebody was in an accident and their loved one is hurt, the last thing they need to worry about is their dogs."
But Van De Riet did a lot more than look after Kipper, a 10-year-old basset hound, and Merlin, a two-year-old shepherd-collie mix.
When the driver of the crashed vehicle learned he could not travel with his girlfriend by air ambulance, Van De Riet loaded both dogs into his truck — alongside the camping gear, dog beds, leashes and toys from the ruined car — and then offered the driver a ride to the Halifax hospital.
CBC Nova Scotia spoke to the male driver, but he wanted to speak with his partner before agreeing to an interview.
Dogs' owner will make full recovery
He told Van De Riet in a text that his partner's arm has been put in a cast and she's under observation, but that she is expected to make a full recovery.
The dogs will, too.
Van De Riet took them to Elmsdale Animal Hospital, where they got a free checkup and pain medication. Kipper has a sore back, while Merlin's legs seem a little stiff, their foster dad said.
The pups made friends with Van De Riet's two miniature pinschers last night, had some painkillers and treats and then settled in. The basset hound curled up and slept next to Van De Riet all night.
"They totally had their trust in me and knew I wasn't there to hurt them and would take care of them," he said.
He shrugs off the suggestion that he's done something special.
"Like I said, it was the least I could do — I would expect anyone in this province to do the same thing if they were in my shoes," said Van De Riet. "It just happened to be that I was the one that was there first, I guess."
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