Austin Forman was hauling firewood in his backyard on the weekend - one of the 11-year-old's weekly chores - when his golden retriever, Angel, began acting strange.
"He thought that was kind of cool, she was following him around," the boy's father, Jay Forman, recalled Sunday from his home in Boston Bar, B.C., a rural community about 200 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
"Angel is a year-and-a-half old, she's like a teenager that has been drinking Starbucks coffee for a week straight, nothing slows her down and she only listens to you about half the time."
It was already dark on Saturday evening and Austin had little time to react when he discovered the reason for Angel's strange behaviour. The boy spotted what he first thought was a strange dog emerge from the shadows. Just two metres away, the cat charged at him.
"He was like: Aw, crap, it's a cougar."
But Angel was ready - the young dog leapt at the hungry cougar and "took the whack," Mr. Forman said. The boy escaped inside his home while the two animals battled for several minutes. "The cougar was latched onto her head, you could hear both the dog and the cougar screaming. Then it went silent."
RCMP Constable Chad Gravelle was less than a minute away from the home when he got an emergency call about a cougar mauling and a child. In the small community, he knows the Forman kids and arrived fearing the worst.
"When I found it was the dog, I was relieved," he said.
He stepped into the backyard and saw that the cougar, a young, skinny female, had dragged Angel under the porch. "I could see the cougar was chewing on the dog's jugular, I took a shot at the cougar's hind end," he said. "They were all tangled up together and I don't want to hit the dog,"He climbed down and got close enough to put a killing shot through the cougar's head.
"We brought it out on the snow, the dog was laying there lifeless," he said. As the family gathered, consoling Austin, the dog suddenly sprang up. "She coughed a bit of blood, she started wagging her tail, snuggled up to Austin and licked him."
The Formans' home is just off the Trans-Canada Highway, but the neighbourhood is sparsely populated and the cougar wouldn't have to wander far from the wilderness to find their backyard.
Mr. Forman, who was initially reluctant to adopt the formerly apartment-bound dog last year, now can't say enough about the pooch. "My son was saved by Angel."
As the youngest of five siblings, Austin has been closer to the dog than any other member of the family. "They kind of bonded because they are both hyper," his dad explained.
His son is shaken but unhurt, and Angel is expected to recover.
"She is doing pretty good, she has a bunch of puncture wounds in the head, the neck and the thigh. But there's nothing missing. It's pretty amazing."
Angel has been sent to recover with a friend who raises dogs. "What do we do? It's an hour's drive to a vet."
As for Austin, he won't be allowed to dawdle over his chores any more, his father said.
"I think the firewood is going to have to be done in the daylight, now that we know there are strange things lurking in the dark."