|Alexis Sararas, 3, of Trenton sits with her whippet, Moose, Thursday, April 22, 2010. Moose's barking alerted the girl's mother after Alexis' neck became trapped between two metal bars of a gate (background), preventing her from breathing properly. (LUKE HENDRY/QMI Agency)
CFB TRENTON, Ont. — He used to be "ordinary," but after helping save a three-year-old girl, Moose the dog now answers to hero.
The year-old brown whippet's insistent barking alerted Jolene Sararas Tuesday when her daughter, Alexis, became caught in a backyard gate.
"That's our friend Moosey-Moo. He saved me," Alexis told visitors, petting the sociable brown dog.
The terrifying drama began Tuesday afternoon on Bell Irving Drive in CFB Trenton's residential family quarters neighbourhood.
Jolene Sararas said she had taken her five-year-old son, Lodune, to school and returned home to spend the day with Alexis.
"I was in the kitchen doing the dishes and Moose started barking and yipping — stuff he doesn't normally do."
Jolene and her husband, Master Cpl. Terry Sararas, said Moose barks typically only when he sees something he wants — usually squirrels.
But this noise was different.
Jolene said Moose kept barking, lifting his front paws and looking toward the backyard gate. Alexis wasn't visible.
"I went out and found Alexis with her head stuck in the gate," said Jolene.
"My head got caught," Alexis said. "I was going outside to get to the trampoline."
Her father explained the pagewire gate doesn't always latch properly, so a bungee cord had been added to pull it closed when opened.
It had slammed closed, pinning Alexis' throat in the narrow gap between two metal bars.
"I was crying," said Alexis.
But when her mother found her, the blonde toddler was making only a raspy noise.
"She was barely conscious and I could hear her trying to breathe," Jolene said.
"I ran over and I opened the gate and I couldn't get her to wake up.
"Moose was still going crazy, following me and yipping and jumping."
She said she "wasn't thinking straight" and first called Terry at work; he teaches avionics systems at Trenton's 426 "Thunderbird" Transport Training Squadron.
Jolene then called 911.
"I could hear the base sirens before I was even done on the phone," she said.
"I raced home," said Terry. "The base fire department was hot on my heels and arrived just seconds after I got home."
The firefighters examined Alexis thoroughly. Hastings-Quinte Emergency Medical Services paramedics soon arrived and took her by ambulance to Quinte Health Care Trenton Memorial.
Her parents said Alexis was examined further and held for about an hour of observation.
She was "exhausted" but suffered no permanent injury, they said.
"She's fine," said Terry. "She still has a lot of bruising."
Alexis even played with friends that afternoon and on Thursday was smiling, talking steadily and playing.
Even before Tuesday's excitement, Terry said, "we couldn't ask for a better dog."
He and Jolene said Moose has always been loving, cuddly and very patient with the children.
The family has three cats but Moose — their first dog — arrived as a six-week-old. They found him through a whippet rescue program.
"We spent a long time deciding what breed we wanted," he said, explaining he liked whippets' look and personality.
"They're supposed to be a very intelligent, very family-oriented kind of dog."
But until Tuesday, Jolene said, Moose didn't seem "spectacular.
"It wasn't like a Lassie kind of thing," said Jolene. "He's always just been our pet — ordinary."'
The dog's nickname is Moofus — "part Moose, part doofus," said Terry.
But he's now given the canine a new title: Moose the Wonder Dog.