Peyton Manning checks up on namesake dog who escaped a bear's jaws

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Joe Napsha, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
·3 min read
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Apr. 9—Peyton Manning — the soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback — called Thursday to check on the condition of his namesake dog, which escaped certain death from the mouth of a black bear Monday night near Armbrust.

Manning called the Rev. Tim Stradling on Thursday morning, much to the surprise of Stradling. The pastor of Armbrust Wesleyan Church along Route 819 in Hempfield is a longtime fan of the former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback.

"I was thrilled right away," Stradling said.

Peyton Manning — the 9-year-old Maltese-silky terrier family pet — returned home from a Monroeville veterinary hospital, where he was recovering after having its front left leg amputated. Stradling said the dog also suffered from other bite marks.

"He's our small, broken and bloodied mutt," Stradling said, but was already walking on three legs when he got home. "There are a lot of happy three-legged dogs."

Stradling said when a call from a "restricted number" appeared on his cellphone, he thought it was from the veterinarian giving them an update on their dog.

But when he heard that familiar voice — a voice he heard a lot in the 1990s when he was a student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind., and when serving at two churches in Indiana — he knew it was no prank.

Stradling said he spoke with Manning for about 10 minutes.

"We had a little exchange," Stradling said. "He was kind" and was concerned about Peyton. Manning said he is the owner of a two black Labrador retrievers and a Chihuahua.

Manning told him "God bless" a few times.

"He said 'God bless' more than I — a pastor — did," Stradling said.

Manning promised to send a gift to the family, Stradling said. The 56-year-old pastor said his 22-year-old son, Joshua, a big Peyton Manning fan, was hoping to get a souvenir from Manning, who is to be inducted into the Pro Hall of Fame in August.

The family has a photo of Joshua wearing a Colts hoodie and holding their Peyton Manning when he was just a pup.

Stradling said he believes the attack by the black bear was prompted by his dog encountering the bear's cubs near the family's vehicles parked in the driveway, when he let his dog out of the house around 10 p.m.

"He was definitely after the chickens in the chicken coop" in the backyard, Stradling said.

He saw his yelping dog was in the bear's mouth, and the bear turned and started toward the woods. Stradling screamed and charged the bear, closing the distance between him and bear to about 25 feet.

"He started to leave with my buddy," Stradling said. Luckily, Stradling said, the bear was not holding the dog by its neck.

With his wife, Beth, joining him in screaming at the bear, Stradling said the bear dropped the dog by their vehicles. They wrapped up the dog for a trip to the veterinary hospital.

The miracle that Peyton only lost a leg while in the jaws of a bear was in addition to "the miracle of being saved," the pastor said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, jnapsha@triblive.com or via Twitter .