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Once Bitten, Twice Try

US Open 2007

Fernando GonzalezGonzalez familyFernando Gonzalez loves dogs, and that's allowed him to forgive and forget.

It began on a lazy Saturday afternoon with a car ride to get coffee. It ended with a dog bite, an altruistic rescue and, ultimately, a heartwarming reunion.

Fernando Gonzalez, a lifetime lover of dogs, is horrified to see a small terrier mix run down by a car on a busy Santiago highway. Pulling his car to the side of the road, Gonzalez embarks on a rescue mission to save the dog - which is barely moving and nursing a broken hip - from being hit a second time. But not everyone wants to be rescued.

"I tried to get the dog, but he didn't want to come," the 2007 Australian Open finalist and Top 10 star recalls. "He wasn't moving much and I could see he had a hip problem, so I couldn't just leave him there."

Suddenly recalling that he is in the middle of a highway, Gonzalez turns his head to check for oncoming traffic, only to be bitten near the base of his little finger on his right hand - his playing hand! "It wasn't a hard bite, but it was a special part of my hand. He was afraid; that's why he bit me. I didn't want to leave him but at that point I didn't know what to do."

Gonzalez returns to his car only to be followed by the dog, who crawls underneath the vehicle. "Maybe that was a sign he really wanted my help," Gonzalez says. Risking further injury, Gonzalez lures the dog out and puts it into the front passenger seat of his car alongside his friend. To this day Gonzalez is unsure of the breed of the dog, but likens him to Benji, the terrier mix who found fame on the big screen.

"I called my sister, who is a vet. I also called my doctor, who said I needed to go to the hospital. I told my friend to drop me at the hospital and then to take the dog to the vet."

Gonzalez thought he may need to get a rabbies shot, but was advised against it. "I had one shot straight away, but it wasn't for rabbies. They said to wait 10 days. If the dog is still alive after that you're okay. If he dies, then I need to get the shots - and I wouldn't be able to play [Master Series] Monte Carlo."

Two days after the rescue the Chilean press became aware of the story and the dog became the best-known canine in the country. The shelter where it was housed was fielding 50 calls an hour from people wanting to adopt the dog and the publicity also flushed out its true owners, sparking a second heart-warming story. The dog, who belonged to a woman who was unable to have children, was lost when the woman's brother took the dog for a ride on his motorcycle.

"This dog was like a baby to her, so it meant a lot to get it back," Gonzalez said. "Although I never got to meet the real owner, the press visited the family and got their story and I felt really good to know that I had helped."

Gonzalez has long been a dog lover and is the proud owner of a four-year-old samoyed, Pato, and an 18-month-old boxer, Roke, given to him by his sister from a litter of eight puppies. When he is on the road the dogs stay with Gonzalez's parents, increasing the household dog count to six, adding further stress to the home's two cats.

Given the same situation, would Gonzalez attempt another daring roadside rescue? "Yes, I would do it definitely, but maybe a little differently. Maybe wait a little bit longer because he is afraid."

And it did add some excitment to a dull day at home. "We went from an afternoon with nothing to do to a situation where we had many things to do!"

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