A heroic Rossland mother protected her son from a cougar attack that could’ve been fatal, and her courageous actions were recognized with the Medal of Bravery from Governor General David Johnston.
The Governor General presented the medal to Dawn Manning in Ottawa last Friday among more than 30 awards which honoured Canadian citizens who have acted courageously to help others.
“His address moved me to the point of tears,” said Manning. “It was really respectful.”
In his speech, Gov. Gen. Johnston acknowledged the daring risks that many recipients exhibited during stressful situations, making special reference to Manning.
“Many of us are never given the opportunity to test ourselves, to react under intense pressure, to prove on an instinctual level that we are caring people,” said Gov. Gen. Johnston during the awards ceremony.
“But you here—all of you being presented with the Decorations for Bravery—have passed that test. . . With little thought to your own well-being, you jumped in after drowning victims, plunged headlong into burning houses, searched through car wrecks, confronted armed assailants, and even grappled with a cougar.
“These brave acts deserve to be remembered.”
Manning remembers taking a family hike in Washington state in 2009, near their family vacation home, when a cougar came out of nowhere and grabbed her five-year-old son Simon on the top of his head.
“I remember having all of these weird thoughts,” said Manning. “Like ‘Oh God, this can’t be happening. Man, come deal with this.’”
Manning said she screamed like a banshee, and beat the cougar with a water bottle that her husband (Mark) had left behind for them.
She remembers hitting the cougar with the bottle twice, and touching its fur once. Everything else about that day is hazy for Manning, her instincts took over.
Mark Impey, Simon’s father, heard his wife screaming and initially assumed that she was stung by a wasp. But when her screaming persisted, Impey knew there was something more serious going on.
“When he came back and saw me fighting the cougar, we looked at each other and it was like we knew we might become ‘those parents.’ The parents who lost their son,” said Manning. “My husband actually said when he saw me hitting the cougar, it looked like a hockey fight.”
The cougar sunk its teeth into her child’s head and dragged Simon, but Manning battled to save their son’s life.
She hit the cougar with the water bottle until it retreated, and Simon remembers being surprised by the animal.
“I remember when I was picking huckleberries, I was kneeling down to get them because the plants are like that tall,” said Simon while lowering his right hand towards the sidewalk.
“And then, I turned around and there was this big animal behind me. I had no idea what it was and then I ran. It pounced on me, and I had my eyes closed the rest of the time.”
Manning said that her son slept on the floor beside their bed and made drawings of the attack with ball-point pen. The attack made her a nervous wreck, but she has proudly pushed forward.
“I think Simon understands what happened now that he’s seven,” said Manning.
“He realizes that I could’ve been killed, but he said that his dad’s a hero too. If Mark hadn’t been hiking ahead and left the water bottle behind for us, I wouldn’t have been able to hit the cougar with it.
“It makes me worried about hiking sometimes. I’ve never gone up to that mountain since,” said Simon.
“I don’t think we should’ve picked the berries because if we were kneeling down more, it could’ve made us easier prey for the cougar.”
The family has dubbed Washington’s Mount Abercrombie, as ‘stupid cougar mountain,’ and together, they’re gradually easing back into doing outdoor activities as a group.
“About nine months ago the clouds lifted, and I started to feel like myself again,” said Manning.
“And I’d say that this trip was like one of my top ten experiences, for sure.”