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Posted on Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

Photo of Humane Society cruelty investigator cradling dog after freeway pileup goes viral

By Cindy Heflin


Matt Schaecher holds a Boston terrier named Riley in the aftermath of the freeway pileup on I-75 in Detroit Thursday. Schaecher put Riley in the ambulance with owner Heather Ramsey. Both have recovered.

AP photo

The firefighter cradling a shivering dog in a photo widely shared on the Internet after the massive freeway pileup on Interstate 75 Thursday in Detroit is Humane Society of Huron Valley lead cruelty investigator Matt Schaecher.

Schaecher, who works as a Detroit firefighter, was among those who responded to the mile-long series of freeway crashes that occurred Thursday in whiteout conditions. The chain-reaction crashes killed three people, including two children, injured many others and involved dozens of vehicles.


Emergency personnel respond at the scene of one of a mile-long series of crashes along Interstate 75 on the southwest side of Detroit Thursday.

AP photo

Schaecher said he came upon the woman’s car at the accident scene on southbound I-75 at the Rouge River bridge. The car was surrounded by semis and badly damaged, he said.

“I asked her if she was OK and she said no she needed help. She said ‘I think my dog might be injured.' ” She told Schaecher the dog, a Boston terrier named Riley, had been bounced around in the crash.

Schaecher held the dog, a Boston terrier named Riley, and checked him out while other emergency workers got the woman, Heather Ramsey of Ferndale, out of the car and onto a gurney.

“He was shaking almost uncontrollably,” Schaecher said. “Probably a combination of being extremely scared and cold.” Fortunately the dog was not injured.

Once Ramsey got to an ambulance, Schaecher put Riley in with her.

Ramsey has since been released from the hospital and was featured in a segment on Detroit television station WJBK. “There’s really no way I should’ve survived and I did,” she told the station.

The photo, taken by a Detroit News photographer David Coates, was featured in the Huffington Post and has been widely shared on social networking sites.

Schaecher lives in Plymouth Township and commutes east to Detroit two days a week to work as a firefighter and west to the Humane Society in Washtenaw County's Superior Township the rest of the time.

Schaecher said he thinks the image of him cradling the dog has given people something positive to latch onto in the midst of the horror of the crash.

“Obviously any accident scene or any emergency scene that involves children is extremely difficult,” he said. "My heart just goes out to the families of the people that have lost loved ones. I can’t imagine being in that position.”

Watch the WJBK interview with Ramsey below:

Fox 2 News Headlines

Cindy Heflin is associate news director at Contact her at 734-623-2572 or or follow her on Twitter.


Patrick Maurer

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

Humane Society of Huron Valley rocks!!!


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Some time back. had contact with Matt Schaecher about an injured wild animal. He responded promptly, and took compassionate care of the critter.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

best wishes to Heather and Riley, may the rest of your life be relatively uneventful!


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

We were involved in a late nite head on and we all survived. The police did not realize there was dog in the car until she poked her head up from under the seat. Ours and like this one could have gone so wrong. This was a lot worse but glad to hear some good came out of it. Condolences to the families.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:03 a.m.

Now that we know the dog is okay it would be nice to find out about the human being (dressed in pink) on the gurney in the background. What were their injuries? Was he/she related to the people that were killed? What is the prognosis for recovery? Thank God, though, that dog is expected to survive because pet survival leads the headlines in Ann Arbor.

harry b

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

You said it. What wrong with all of these people. Go to St Judes hospital if you want to see some hero's.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Sarcasm sometimes is really not necessary.

Cindy Heflin

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

a2citizen: Heather Ramsey is OK. I don't know for sure, but it seems unlikely that she is related to any of the people killed in the crash.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

If you read the story, you would have noted that the owner has been released from the hospital. This was a nice story- why would it be important to know details of relations to the deceased and her injuries. It is nice to know she is recovering and so is her dog. Not everyone wants to know every bloody detail


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 4:17 a.m.

BMW makes difference

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:10 a.m.

Good people are hard to find


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

depends on what you're looking for.......


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Good people are everywhere. Look around you and notice all the little things people do - holding doors, letting you into traffic, a smile from someone you don't even know when you're having a bad day. This weekend I didn't notice I'd dropped a jacket I was carrying until a woman caught up to me and gave it back. If you don't see these people, it's too bad, because I think most people ARE good.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

Someone took it personal.

buvda fray

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

Yes the other kind seem to be working late at today.


Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 9:54 p.m.

@ cibachrome, re: "Finally, we see that the best in people outshines the worst in people." Stuff like this is done every day by public servants and citizens alike. Stay away from the 24-hour "If It Bleeds, It Leads" TV crap, and you'll have a better perspective on a basically-good world.

Ed Anderson

Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

Thank you for covering this story. This hometown hero is an example of the best of humanity. Saving countless lives of people and animals -- all deserving rescue and comfort.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 10:23 p.m.

To harry b- Hero is absolutely correct. This man has received medals for saving multiple lives while working as a firefighter in the City of Detroit, was recently in a story on this site for saving the life of a choking man at a local coney island, responded to New York City for 9/11, responded to hurricane Katrina and hurricane Ike, received countless awards for saving the lives of hundreds of animals. Hero in my book! With that said, harry I thank you too for saving the life of an animal. You are a hero in my book as well.

harry b

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

HERO??? Because he picked up a dog and gave it back to the owner. What is wrong with you people. I rescued a dog am I a hero too??? No.. My standards for a hero is a little bit higher.


Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

Finally, we see that the best in people outshines the worst in people.

harry b

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

What are you talking about? The fireman holding a dog. Thats the best. He did what any normal human being would do. I think you are setting your standard WAY too low.