Darrell Layne plays with his dog, Onex, who saved his life from a copperhead snake. - SPENCER JENKINS/LEAF-CHRONICLE
By Spencer Jenkins, The Leaf-Chronicle
CLARKSVILLE -- During a routine stroll on a friend's farmland off Peachers Mill Road, a 70-year-old man found himself face-to-face with a copperhead snake.
Luckily, he had a fellow veteran with him: Onex, a black Labrador not afraid of a fight.
Navy veteran Darrell Layne said that on July 14 he was opening a large cattle gate on the farm, but an old rotted fencepost blocked the gate. After he moved it, the fencepost broke in two. He threw one of the pieces aside, then noticed the venomous snake at his feet.
"I'm looking down, and not far was a copperhead," he said. "He was coiled up and ready to strike me."
Layne said he doesn't normally see copperheads in the area, but there's an old rock bluff where they might embed themselves.
"I know a copperhead when I see a copperhead," he said. "He was 20 inches long, and he was a deadly snake."
Nearby was Layne's 5-year-old dog Onex, who served the Army in the Middle East before landing in Clarksville in November.
"This dog was trained in Iraq," Layne said. "He was trained to sniff ordnance and possibly other things; he was a rescue dog too."
Layne said he lucked out receiving Onex with dog tags because of the dog's Army background.
"I was very lucky to get him," he said. "It wasn't your normal adoption."
When Onex saw the snake threatening Layne, he crouched forward growling, which diverted the snake's attention. But now the attention was on Onex, and the snake bit the dog twice on the face.
That gave Layne the opportunity to grab a fencepost and kill the snake.
Onex was in bad shape though. Layne had to rush him to the veterinarian, where the dog was treated for two days with fluids and anti-venom.
"I would have never got out of there," Layne said. "He got real sick on me before we got back to the truck."
"In this particular incident, he knew exactly what to do," he said. "I'm 70 years old, and I'm not as strong as I used to be."
Layne said he and Onex have become closer since the incident.
"He's very protective of me, and I've noticed this more since this happened," he said. "I know what could have been if I didn't have him."
The dog's head remains swollen from the bites, but a full recovery is expected, Layne said. "Dogs can be the best partner you have, and unconditional love describes Onex," he said. "People need to take care of their pets like they would their best friend."