Statement issued Tuesday by the Indiana Department of Transportation:
Bluffton, Ind. – Ten-year-old Frankie Wygant recently found two heroes in Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Fort Wayne District operators Tom Athan and Larry Brunner when the men rescued her dog, Tess, likely saving the little dog’s life. On the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, Athan and Brunner were driving east on SR 124, near the INDOT Bluffton Subdistrict office. The operators noticed two large dogs attacking a smaller dog. They stopped the truck, blew the horn and yelled, but the large dogs were undeterred. Brunner and Athan jumped from the truck, grabbing tools for reinforcement. When the operators approached the large dogs, they stopped attacking the little dog and ran away. As the operators left, they watched the little dog move toward a nearby farmhouse.
“We initially noticed the dogs because one ran in front of us. We thought at first they were attacking a squirrel or a rabbit,” said Brunner.
“When we realized it was another dog, we stopped. The larger dogs had the little dog in their mouths; it was almost like a tug-of-war,” said Athan. “We were sure if we didn’t do something, the little dog would be killed.”
A short time later, Brunner and Athan stopped at the farmhouse to check on the little dog and speak to the homeowners, Lance and Ann Wygant. Lance was just leaving to take Tess to the veterinarian at the time.
Frankie Wygant wanted to make sure the operators realized how grateful she and her family were for the rescue. Several days later, Ann Wygant stopped at the Bluffton Subdistrict office. She had two bags of home-baked cookies and letters written by Frankie, addressed to Tess’s “heroes.” The letters read, “Dear Hero, Thank you for saving my dog. You are the hero of the day! I’m glad Tess is alive. I could not think of a better hero than you. Thanks so, so, so much. Sincerely, Frankie Wygant.”
Tess spent two days at the veterinary hospital. As a result of her injuries, the little dog had multiple stitches across her body.
Ann Wygant explained why Tess is so important to the family. Five years earlier, Lance Wygant had been seriously burned, and as he recovered, Tess, who is now six, never left his side. According to Ann Wygant, “Lance was in a lot of pain. And whenever he would wake up, Tess was there, right by his side, where he could feel her. She was a huge comfort to him.
“We’re so thankful the operators stopped – to help Tess and afterward to check on her,” said Wygant. “It’s unusual for drivers to stop in a situation like that. And I wouldn’t have known what had happed if they hadn’t stopped and told us.”
It’s Frankie Wygant, however, who best summarizes the situation when she said, “They helped Tess, and I was glad. They were heroes.”