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Service dog runs for help
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Rich and Kayo Armstrong are totally bonded with their hero dog Emma who ran some 150 feet for help after she and her master in his wheelchair were hit by a pickup truck last Saturday evening outside a McHenry Avenue theater. - photo by GLENN KAHL

A trained and certified service dog went beyond her training Saturday evening when she immediately ran for help after her master was struck down by a pickup truck.

Rich Armstrong, a regional sales representative for a steel manufacturer, said he is still in awe at the reaction of his dog “Emma” when his wheel chair was knocked over and into her as they were preparing to see a movie at a McHenry Avenue theater in Modesto.

He said it was an eerie feeling “when you look at that bumper and realize it is not going to stop.”

Armstrong said he told his wife Kayo to go ahead into the show, buy the tickets and popcorn and he would take their dog to an empty lot to relieve herself.  He explained that the young driver of the truck had sun in his eyes and never saw them until they were knocked to the pavement.

Emma just took off running, he said, and didn’t stop until she had dashed up the side of the building, through a crowd of people and into the lobby where she found “her mom” Kayo Armstrong standing in line to buy popcorn.  She instinctively knew she had to get help.

When she saw her dog run up to her she remembers saying, “Where’s daddy?”  The two of them ran out the front of the theater and Emma led her to the accident scene.

“I was so stunned and I didn’t know where he was and people were asking me if that was my dog running to me.   We found him lying on the pavement around the corner of the building,” she said.  “If Emma had been on the other side of the wheelchair it would have been horrible.”

Armstrong said Emma knows some 40 on-leash commands adding that she has never been trained to react to any off-leash commands or scenarios.  He added that her reaction was a total surprise to him.    

Only 35 percent of the certified dogs make it through training without being faulted for even the simplest of errors such as chasing a cat on sight.  

Armstrong was transported by ambulance to a Modesto hospital where he was treated and released.  It was necessary for him to be x-rayed since he has no feeling below the waist, he said.  That was the only way to determine if he had any broken bones from the incident, he added.

The loss of the use of his legs was the result of a motorcycle accident some five years ago when someone cut in front of him, he said.

Kayo Armstrong is the executive director of the Del Webb Woodbridge Owners Association in Manteca.