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Milo the rescue dog does some rescuing of his own

Sherry Starr, left, and Makayla Swift. Earlier this month, Swift's beagle, Milo, dashed from the house and pawed at the door of Starr's house across the street — leading to her rescue.
Sherry Starr, left, and Makayla Swift. Earlier this month, Swift's beagle, Milo, dashed from the house and pawed at the door of Starr's house across the street — leading to her rescue. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)
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Milo is a rescue dog, by which I mean he is a rescued dog — spirited out of Tennessee and put up for adoption by the Humane Rescue Alliance. But the beagle is also a rescuer dog.

Here’s the headline about Milo recommended by Sherry Starr, the rescued human: “Dog saves woman’s life in Silver Spring.”

Before we get to Sherry, let’s concentrate on Milo. He’s a beagle, brown and black and white.

“He’s really, really full of energy,” said Lavelette White, in whose Silver Spring home Milo lives. “He loves people. Everybody that knows him loves him. He’s just so cute and sweet.”

Milo — nearly 2 years old — was adopted last year by Lavelette’s 20-year-old granddaughter, Makayla Kimon — or Makayla Swift as she’s known now. One morning in early November, she was supposed to go shopping for a wedding dress with her friend, Marissa Bennette.

“We were running late,” Makayla said. “Since we were already running late, I thought I should go ahead and walk Milo real quick.”

Makayla opened the front door and Milo took off running.

“I couldn’t catch him,” she said.

Milo ran to the house across the street. He seemed unsatisfied with this house, so he ran to the one next door, Makayla on his tail.

“He started scratching on the front door,” Makayla said. “I’m thinking, ‘Why is he literally trying to break into her house?’ ”

Makayla was embarrassed. Not everyone wants a strange dog on their property. But as she tried to drag Milo away, she and Marissa could hear a sound coming through an open upstairs window.

It was a voice and it was yelling “Help!”

Hours earlier, Sherry Starr had risen from her bed, certain she had heard the front door bell ring. This was disquieting. It was not much later than 4 a.m.

“I have a habit of never opening the front door,” Sherry told me. Instead, she walks to an upstairs bathroom, opens the window and looks outside. Usually she then shouts “I don’t want any,” since it’s only salespeople and charity solicitors who ever stop by.

This time, there was no one there. Sherry turned to exit.

“All of a sudden, standing there between the toilet and the tub, I slipped,” she said. “I went down — hard — on the tile floor.”

Sherry is 85. She thinks she could have gotten herself up, except for one thing: She was stuck, really stuck.

“I could not move at all,” said Sherry, who had managed to become wedged between the toilet and the tub. “You couldn’t even put a piece of paper between me and the tub.”

Sherry was sore — she’d hit her head on the way down — and she knew she was going to be bruised. But more than anything, she was scared.

“I’m thinking: I’m just going to die here,” she told me.

Her best bet, she decided, was to listen for the telltale squeak of her mailbox lid when the letter carrier stopped by in the afternoon and scream like the dickens. For the next few hours, Sherry practiced yelling: “Help! Help! Hellllp!

“Her voice was very faint,” said Makayla. “You had to be right at the front door to hear Mrs. Starr yell for help.”

Unless you were Milo the beagle, who had apparently heard Sherry the instant Makayla opened her front door.

Makayla called 911. Paramedics thought they’d have to remove the toilet to dislodge Sherry, but they gave one last pull and out she popped. Though bruised and battered, Sherry declined a trip to the hospital. (“I don’t exactly love hospitals,” she said.)

Dogs have great hearing, especially with higher frequencies. And in 2012, two researchers from Goldsmiths University in London published a paper on canine empathy. They tested 18 dogs, comparing how the dogs reacted to humans who were humming and humans who were pretending to cry. Dogs were more likely to approach “crying” humans.

Wrote authors Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer: “The dogs’ pattern of response was behaviorally consistent with an expression of empathetic concern, but is most parsimoniously interpreted as emotional contagion coupled with a previous learning history in which they have been rewarded for approaching distressed human companions.”

Makayla has known her share of distress. Two years ago, when Makayla was a senior in high school, her mother, Monica, died after a long battle with cancer and pulmonary hypertension.

Makayla said Milo has helped her with a grief that seems to get harder over time, not easier.

“That dog is a blessing,” Makayla said.

Sometimes, the dog isn’t the only one who’s rescued.

Helping paw

Have you ever had a dog that alerted you to a dangerous situation? Send the details — with “Paw Patrol” in the subject line — to me at john.kelly@washpost.com.

Helping Hand

It’s Helping Hand season. That’s The Post’s annual fundraising drive for three worthy local charities: Bread for the City, Friendship Place and Miriam’s Kitchen. To learn about them — and make a donation — visit posthelpinghand.com.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.

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