Bridger Walker, 6, is being hailed as a hero for protecting his 4-year-old sister from a dog attack.
The little boy and his sister were at a friend's house in Wyoming earlier this month when a 1-year-old German Shepherd mix lunged at them while they were outside in the backyard. Without thinking, Bridger stepped in front of his sibling to protect her and was bitten in the face by the dog, his parents said.
He underwent a nearly two-hour surgery that required more than 90 stitches, his parents Robert and Teila Walker said in a statement. Bridger is currently recovering at home.
After his story began to surface online, many people, including celebrities Anne Hathaway and Chris Evans, praised Bridger for his bravery.
Robert and Teila said the scary incident happened on July 9 while Bridger and his sister were hanging out at a friend's house. The children went out into the yard and the friend pointed to a dog and said "that is the nice dog." The friend then pointed to another dog in the yard and said "that is the mean one."
"Bridger explained how, at that moment, the mean one ran at them," the couple said in their statement. "In Bridger’s words, 'I stepped to the side, in front of my sister so that the dog wouldn’t get her. I kept moving, so it couldn’t get past.' "
The dog ran at the children and "latched onto Bridger's cheek," Robert and Teila wrote.
"Bridger explained that when the dog bit him, he yelled for his sister to run," according to the statement. "After the dog released, Bridger ran to his sister and led her to a more secure part of the yard where he thought they would be safe."
The dog's owner was able to secure the German Shepherd and called for help.
"At the hospital, emergency workers immediately wheeled Bridger into a curtained-off area. The only time he cried was when he got the IV," his parents wrote.
The dog's owner wanted to put the canine to sleep, Robert and Teila wrote, but Bridger — who has two dogs himself — did not want it to be killed.
"We assured him that the animal police would take care of the dog and that he wouldn’t ever need to worry about seeing it again," the statement read.
"Captain America" actor Chris Evans was one of many celebrities moved by Bridger's actions. In an Instagram video shared by Bridger's aunt, Nicole Walker, the little boy — dressed in a Captain America costume — watched a video of Evans praising him for being a hero.
"I read your story. I saw what you did. And I'm sure you've heard a lot of this over the last couple of days but let me be the next one to tell you, you're a hero. What you did was so brave, so selfless. Your sister is so lucky to have you as a big brother. Your parents must be so proud of you," the actor said.
Evans told Bridger that he's going to send him an authentic Captain America shield and wished the little boy a speedy recovery.
Actress Anne Hathaway wrote on Instagram: "I’m not an Avenger, but I know a superhero when I see one. I can only hope I’m half as brave in my life as you are in yours, Bridger. Wishing you an easeful recovery, and many cool looking rocks."
Other celebrities have also spoken out.
"This young man is an ACTUAL superhero. Praying for his speedy recovery," actor Zachary Levi wrote on Instagram. "@nicolenoelwalker please tell him he’s now an honorary member of the @shazammovie 'Shazamily'. Hope I get to shake his hand some day."
Robert and Teila said in their statement that they wanted to share his story to help cheer him up.
"We are so appreciative of all the kind words, love and prayers extended. The love and support we have received astounds us," they said, also thanking his doctors. A spokesperson for the hospital did not immediately return a request for comment.
When Robert asked Bridger why he stepped in front of his sister, the child explained that he wanted to keep her safe.
"Bridger, in his own words and without hesitation, declared: 'If someone had to die, I thought it should be me,' " his parents wrote.