Rescue Dog Saved Texas Varsity Athete as He Suffered Unexpected Stroke: ‘God Had a Plan’

Amanda Tanner

A rescue dog named Axel is receiving praise for taking action to rescue his owners’ 17-year-old son, Gabriel Tanner, a healthy young athlete who suffered a stroke this summer.

Axel, a one-year-old border collie, was adopted from a litter of nine puppies found by a rescue group in Houston, Texas, according to He ended up with the Tanner family, who live in Spring, Texas. And this August, Axel sprang into action when Gabriel, a high school senior and varsity soccer player, was having a medical emergency — apparently sensing the danger from outside the teenager’s closed bedroom door.

On Saturday, August 26, Gabriel’s mother Amanda says Axel jumped on her bed around 5 AM and woke her up, “pawing me more than normal to get me to move,” she recalls.

At that early hour, her husband Daines got up and opened an exterior door — thinking Axel merely needed to relieve himself. However, the dog parked himself in front of Gabriel’s room until the young man’s father went in to check on him.

Amanda Tanner, left, poses with her son Gabriel upon his release from the hospital after a stroke at age 17.

Amanda Tanner, left, poses with her son Gabriel upon his release from the hospital after a stroke at age 17. (Amanda Tanner / Facebook)

Mr. Tanner reportedly noticed Gabriel was slurring his speech and couldn’t feel the right side of his body and swiftly took him to the emergency room.

Dr. Sabih Effendi, a doctor who treated Gabriel, tells that if not for Axel, the stroke would have had much more catastrophic effects on the young athlete’s health:

By waking the parents up and leading them to the boy, the dog made a “massive” difference in Gabriel’s outcome, says Dr. Sabih Effendi, a neurosurgeon and stroke medical director at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, who treated the teen.

“It’s very amazing that their dog alerted and started this whole process of getting everyone awake and going downstairs,” Effendi tells

“When somebody’s acutely having a stroke, the neurons are dying. … If he was not found and another three or four hours went by, there would have been more and more and more brain injury.”

Gabriel had taken his senior pictures the day before the episode. He says he had a headache that Friday night but it went away. Then, he played video games for a while and went to bed.

Doctors say the stroke happened sometime overnight, and his mother realizes how much time he would have gone without treatment if Axel had not intervened.

“We wouldn’t have thought to go into Gabriel’s room and wake him up,” she says. “He’s a teenager. It was a Saturday morning. We went to bed late. We wouldn’t think to go in there until maybe noon.”

Dr. Effendi says Gabriel’s stroke was a spontaneous arterial dissection — a tearing of a blood vessel that heads up to the brain. “The longer that went by without being on a blood thinner, his stroke would have been worse and worse, to the point where he may have been paralyzed on his right side for the rest of his life or unable to speak at all,” she explains. “Being found earlier because of the dog… significantly improved his outcome.”

On social media, Amanda said Gabriel and two of his brothers were baptized at church the first week he was back from the hospital — which coincided with the 10th anniversary of their church’s founding. “God had a plan,” she wrote. “It amazes me that every detail had been orchestrated beyond what I could have planned myself.”

Gabriel Tanner, 17, baptized at Champion Forest Baptist Church.

Gabriel Tanner, 17, gets baptized at Champion Forest Baptist Church. (Amanda Tanner / Facebook)

In her first Facebook post detailing her son’s stroke, Tanner said her faith grew during the ordeal, quoting Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

“It’s been 6 days of chaos and break through all at once that can only be the hand of God moving,” she wrote. “I share this to encourage all of you to celebrate life, hug your loved ones, love life to the fullest, be grateful, show a loving hand to those that need it, support those who may be struggling, seek God a little bit or maybe a lot, make life count for the better.”

Tanner tells that Axel is “now tasked with following Gabriel everywhere,” keeping the young man’s door open and letting the dog sleep with him more frequently. “He’s always been very sensitive to everything and everybody’s emotions at home.”


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