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Eight days after his dog, Angel, saved his life, 11-year-old Austin Forman was missing her terribly. The golden retriever was at the vet, recuperating from wounds incurred when she leapt between Austin and a wild cougar in their backyard in rural Boston Bar, British Columbia. But he wasn't allowed to visit the family pet because, says his mom, Sherri, "she's so excitable" that she might have jumped up and reinjured herself. Adds Austin: "We call her the kangaroo."

When Angel came home Jan. 9, she made good on her nickname and—despite bruises, stitches, staples and over two dozen puncture wounds from the attack—happily leaped up to greet the boy whose life she nearly gave up her own to protect. Says Sherri, 39, who has raised five children in this remote community: "She has a spirit unlike any animal I have seen."

It was an emotional moment after a week of tributes that included worldwide headlines and the announcement of an upcoming award ceremony from the tiny town's police force. "She's pretty much the bravest dog I've ever seen," says Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable Chad Gravelle, who arrived on the scene minutes after 18-month-old Angel put herself in the path of the cougar as it charged at Austin. The sixth grader, who had been loading firewood into a wheelbarrow, sprinted into his house while his mother phoned 911. Then the family watched helplessly as the big cat mauled their pet. Gravelle shot the cougar, then pried Angel's seemingly lifeless head from its jaws. No one expected the heroic dog to live, but "the next thing we knew, she sucked this big breath of air in and started coughing out blood," recalls Sherri.

Now neighbors are stopping by with bones, homemade dog treats and get-well notes. "My grandpa just finished building her a doghouse with an insulated floor," says Austin. "She's going to be spoiled rotten from now on."

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