OAKLAND — A German shepherd might never have been matched with her current owner if not for a New Jersey animal shelter — and that very well could have been a matter of life and death for the man.

Six-year-old Sadie was surrendered to the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge by her previous owners, who were moving and could not take the dog with them to their new residence.

RBARI adoptions office manager Heather Centrella said German shepherds are a smart, loyal breed that need to gain the trust of an owner who is experienced and patient, and those are traits Sadie recognized in Brian, who took her home a few months ago.

All was going well, Centrella said, until last week, when Brian suffered a stroke while home alone with Sadie. It was undoubtedly a scary moment for both, but Sadie kept her cool.

The dog never left her new owner's side while he was collapsed on the floor, crying and licking his face to keep him awake. With minimal physical and vocal capacity, Brian was able to grab Sadie's collar and command her to drag him, with all of her strength, to his cell phone so he could call 911.

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"She just intuitively knew that he needed help, and when he grabbed onto her, she knew to pull," Centrella said. "Had she not known to do that, we could be having a completely different conversation. She literally was the reason that Brian was able to call for help."

Brian is now recovering at a rehab center while Sadie stays with family, and while human and dog have been FaceTiming, they can't wait to reunite.

"Sadie is a little confused as to why she can't get at Brian, so she does do a little bit of crying, and trying to get at him through the phone," Centrella said.

Centrella said none of this could have been possible without Sadie being brought, while under unfortunate circumstances, to RBARI instead of being cut loose on the street.

And even though it is Brian's life Sadie saved, even he hopes some of the misconceptions about German shepherds, pit bulls, Rottweilers, and certain other dogs will be put to rest so they can be allowed to stay with their families when those people move.

After all, Sadie is now first and foremost a hero.

"If one person out there, one landlord, hears this story and thinks differently about this breed, and changes their pet policy, that's a win," Centrella said.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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