Frightened pooch takes a 400 ft fall into a canyon

On a breezy February day in Stevenson Ranch, Calif., Tatiana Ozhekim was at work when she received a call from home—Bruin had escaped and was missing.

Dog with mouth open

“I got a call from the man who works on our pool,” Tatiana remembers. “He thought he latched the gate, but he didn’t completely, and I guess the wind opened up both gates in the backyard. Bruin got out.”

Tatiana left her workplace and rushed home to help find Bruin. Upon her arrival, she learned that Bruin was last seen running up a fire road towards a nearby water tower. She quickly made her way up to this familiar spot. “I’m now up there, calling his name, but of course he doesn’t hear me because it’s so windy,” says Tatiana.

As she’s calling for Bruin, she discovers that the water tower—which is only serviced a couple times a year—happened to have a crew there that day.

“We end up seeing the crew of guys and it turns out they did see a German shepherd and were calling to him saying ‘Hey puppy, come here, come here’. They tell me that they don’t see him anymore, but that he was there and the direction in which he went,” she explains.

Prior to his adoption, Bruin was severely abused by his previous owner, and as a result he’s terrified of men. To this day, he is even cautious around Greg, Tatiana’s husband.

Tatiana pieced together the events after this encounter. Frightened by the strange men working at the tower, Bruin ran away and slipped through a nearby chain-link fence. There was a steep canyon face on the other side of the barrier and Bruin likely fell off the cliff tumbling over 400 feet to the bottom.

Now in a panic, Tatiana turned to her network and local social media in the hopes of finding more recent clues about Bruin. Her outreach created a snowball effect through the community. A Facebook page was set up to share tips and information, and a search party of dedicated members was established to canvas the canyon and hillside.

Police officer and a dog

Four days into the search, the Ozhekims and their supporters were increasingly concerned about Bruin’s chances. Tatiana’s friend Rebecca volunteered with her husband, Lieutenant Joe Kalyn, to spend many hours traversing through difficult terrain in the canyon foothills—all with no luck. On Saturday afternoon, Lt. Kayln had a hunch about one canyon, and they set out again to explore. Having trekked through about 300 yards of tough terrain, he headed back to his car. To his shock, he noticed a dog with a blue collar near his rear passenger door. It was Bruin.

“I’m calling my wife,” Lt. Kalyn recollects. “I tell her ‘Don’t scream, but I got Bruin and he’s really hurt,’”

Shocked, Rebecca screamed and yelled to everyone under the water tower that they needed to get down to Lt. Kalyn. Cheers and tears of joy erupted at the base of the canyon, when they saw that Bruin was alive. They raced him to Access Specialty Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif., where he was treated immediately in the ICU and kept for a few days.

In addition to lacerations and dehydration, Bruin was also suffering from internal bleeding, a broken femur and a collapsed lung. Once Bruin was stable, Tatiana and Greg took him to Access Specialty Hospital in Culver City for surgery on his shattered leg, which had also severed some of his hind muscles.

“The fact that Bruin survived a fall like that is testament to how amazing animals are,” said Dr. Jules Benson, Nationwide’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “The community support from friends and neighbors to find him after the fall really made the difference. ”

“The surgeon there specialized in joints and bones and [he] was the most responsive, caring, and professional surgeon I have ever encountered. He asked for daily updates and got us in there more than once to follow up with Bruin. This guy was incredible,” Greg remembers.

Women with her dog

It would be a long road to recovery, but Tatiana was with Bruin every step of the way. She slept next to his kennel for over two months to make sure he didn’t mess with his stitches. Fast forward several months and Bruin is now thriving and moving better than the surgeons expected.

Unfortunately accidents like this happen, but because they were covered by Nationwide®, Tatiana and Greg were able to offset some of the costs for Bruin’s treatment, which totaled nearly $20,000. As seasoned pet parents, Tatiana and Greg understand the importance of pet insurance and recommend it to all their friends. “It’s a no brainer, not even something you should think twice about. If you have a pet and you care about your pet, it’s a must,” says Greg.