Loyal Ziva cried and cried after trying to help her dying master

Stephen McGarrell with his dog Ziva
Stephen McGarrell with his dog Ziva

A heartbroken mother has found a new home for her son’s loyal dog who sought help for his master as he lay dying.

Ziva, a four-year-old Alsatian, has been distraught after his master Stephen McGarrell (47), dropped dead suddenly while out for a walk.

Stephen’s mum Sheila McGarry (72) said her only son had been walking his dog at around lunchtime on October 2 when he took a heart attack.

“He went out the same time every day to walk the dog and was walking by Cranagh Bridge, a beauty spot near Aghagallon.

“He had let the dog off the lead as he usually did if there was no one around. He must have been holding the lead and then he dropped dead.

“His dog Ziva was very distressed and ran onto the road trying to get the attention of cars passing by.

“One man Colm Barrett stopped and realised something was wrong. Then another man Conor McConville stopped. Colm knew the dog and that Stephen was never too far away.

“They went down and saw Stephen laying on the grass and Ziva trying to protect his master,” she said.

Sheila explained that the two men rang the police and the local priest Fr Declan Mulligan who came immediately.

“The police had to pry Ziva’s lead out of Stephen’s hand. They were very brave as Ziva was very upset. They were awfully good. I couldn’t praise them enough.

“She kept circling his body and nuzzling up to him. She was getting upset if anyone came near him but, at the same time, if they walked away, she was sidling up to them, hoping they would come back to Stephen.

“The dog was crying and crying beside him,” she said. “She lay down beside his head and tried to protect him.”

They sent for Stephen’s son James who came immediately to his father’s side and helped take Ziva away.

“She was very loyal to Stephen. The two of them were hardly ever apart. That dog never left his side. She slept in the house and would have wakened Stephen every morning at 7am to get him to let her out.”

She said Stephen, who had had lived in the Derrymore area all his life, had worked as a plaster and taxi driver. “He was well loved and well respected,” she said.

Sheila added that Stephen would have brought his dog every Friday to Davy Moore’s butchers in Aghagallon to get a big bone. They were regularly seen together and when Ziva was spotted on the road without him, it was clear to the two men who stopped that something was wrong.

Conor McConville said he was stopped by Colm who said the dog had been running around in circles on the road.

“We both went down but we couldn’t get near Stephen,” he said. “The dog was just running round him.”

Sheila explained that her husband Jim, Stephen’s father, had been killed in a workplace accident aged 47, when Stephen was just 19-year-old.

She added that since her son’s passing, Ziva has been in kennels.

“We would love to see Ziva get adopted into a good home. She is such a loyal dog and very well house-trained,” she said, adding that she would like to thank Brian and Kate at the kennels.

And shortly after the Mail posted the article online, Ziva found a new home.

Sheila particularly wanted to thank Colm Barrett and Conor McConville for going to Stephen’s aid.

Sheila also would like to praise the bravery of the PSNI in getting Stephen’s dog safely from his body.

And she thanked local priest Fr Declan for helping the family after their sad bereavement.

Stephen, the much loved father of Louise and James, husband of Patricia and son of Sheila and the late Jim was buried in St Joseph’s Cemetery Glenavy after Requiem Mass in St Patrick’s Church Aghagallon.