Dog saves hiker owners from rattlesnake

San Franciscans Diane Castañaon and her husband, John Forsyth, decided to spend their Sunday enjoying a hike along the Matt Davis Trail, a scenic trek on the west slopes the Golden State’s Mount Tamalpais.

If not for Shakira’s alert, her owners could have been bitten by the venomous snake. (Photo Credit: John Forsyth)

The couple brought along their dog, 13-month-old Anatolian Shepherd Shakira, for the 7-mile wilderness hike — and it’s lucky they did, because loyal Shakira would end up saving both of their lives that day.

Castañaon and Forsyth set out of Pantoll and onto the trail with Shakira leashed and walking three feet ahead of Castañaon.

“Shakira suddenly jumped backwards and went immediately into a stuff alert posture with her tail and ears up,” Forsyth remembers. “She kept backing up into my wife and would not let her pass.”

When the couple peered over where Shakira was standing, they soon saw what was making their dog behave so strangely — a rattlesnake, sunning itself mere feet in front of where they were walking.

“My wife looked over Shakira’s shoulder and spotted this snake right on the trail exactly where she was planning her next foot strike,” Forsyth tells

It was Shakira’s cautious temperament that prevented the snake from charging at the couple, Forsyth explains.

“Shakira did not bark or growl,” says Forsyth. “She kept the snake from coiling and going on the offensive.”

Forsyth credits Shakira for protecting his wife, who would have been right in the path of the dangerous snake.

“By stopping my wife in her tracks, she prevented her from the danger,” he says.

Sunday morning’s trek wasn’t Shakira’s first; Shakira has joined her owners on many hikes before, taking her first when she was only 5-months-old. Forsyth says his dog took to the activity from the start. Castañaon and Forsyth fitted Shakira with her own dog hiking pack when she was 10-months-old.

But this was Shakira’s first encounter with a rattler, her owner says.

When the couple spotted the snake, Forsyth and his wife pulled Shakira back from the danger. Before the snake could spot them, Forsyth snapped a quick photo, then tossed a few small rocks near the snake to spook it away from the trail.

After their close encounter, Castañoan and Forsyth decided to finish the hike they’d started. Shakira was more than willing to continue, too, but the courageous Shepherd continued to protect her owners.

“The rest of the hike, Shakira took it very slow and was constantly on alert,” Forsyth says. “She refused to allow anyone to get in front of her on the trail.”

The couple says they are thankful to have such a wonderful dog, and have learned from Sunday’s hike just how valuable Shakira is.

“I have learned that Shakira’s instincts guided her to protect us from a dangerous situation as opposed to confronting and engaging in the danger,” says Forsyth. “We are very proud of her and grateful she is part of the family.”