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Bridger Walker with his parents, Robert and Teila, and his sister, Brielle

Abu Dhabi: Meet Bridger Walker, the seven-year-old boy who last year saved his little sister from a dog attack and had to undergo 90 stitches to his face.

Bridger has undergone a series of treatments since the attack, which took place a year ago on July 9, 2020, including a series of laser treatments to lighten his scars. For their first vacation since the Covid-19 pandemic, Bridger and his family travelled from their home in Wyoming, United States, to Abu Dhabi.

Speaking to Gulf News during the visit, Bridger said he was loving the food and the experience in Abu Dhabi.

Asked about what he had really enjoyed, he replied: “I loved the orange juice in Abu Dhabi. It sent my taste buds to the moon!”

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Accompanying Bridger to Abu Dhabi was five-year-old Brielle — the little sister Bridger had saved from being mauled — his parents Robert, 39, and Teila, 37, as well as his older siblings, 13-year-old Mylee and ten-year-old Johnny, and a number of members from his extended family. Bridger’s youngest brother — two-year-old Wit — has remained at home in the US.

The attack

Bridger’s story first captivated the world when the then-six-year-old bravely stepped in front of an attacking dog to save his little sister during a play date at a friend’s house, and was himself bitten savagely across his face and cheek. Rushed to the hospital, he had to undergo multiple stitches to his face. His story and the accompanying picture were shared by his aunt, Nicole, on an Instagram account. They went viral when she urged people to share the story so that Bridger could get some encouragement for his bravery.

“On July 9, my six-year-old nephew Bridger saved his little sister’s life by standing between her and a charging dog. After getting [bitten] several times on the face and head, he grabbed his sister’s hand and ran with her to keep her safe. He later said: ‘If someone had to die, I thought it should be me.’ After receiving 90 stitches (give or take) from a skilled plastic surgeon, he’s finally resting at home. We love our brave boy and want all the other superheroes to know about the latest hero who joined their ranks,” the Instagram post had said. It also tagged Tom Holland, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans and a host of other celebrities.

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Bridger Walker

Avengers assemble

It soon garnered more than a million likes, and the messages from celebrities started pouring in. According to his parents, Tom Holland, who played Spider-Man in the ‘Avengers’ movies, was the first to send words of support.

Bridger’s family is still exceedingly proud of him. His father, Robert Walter said the bones on Bridger’s cheeks had been completely exposed before the stitches he received, but they had never shared any pictures of it online.

Ongoing treatment

“He loves his little sister, so we can see what made him protect her. As a family, we try to teach our children morals and ethics. We believe the world teaches trivia, but it is up to us to teach them principles,” Robert said.

About two weeks after the attack, Bridger underwent laser treatment for the first time, as a specialist suggested that they should “attack the scar” right after the stitches had healed. “Bridger has been very brave through it all,” Robert added.

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Bridger and Brielle Walker with their father, Robert Walker. Photo: SUPPLIED

A lot of positivity

Fortunately, the young boy has been buoyed by the messages of support he has received and has not displayed any sign of trauma.

“He has since done very well and he is not even nervous around dogs. We believe a lot in positivity, and there has been a lot of it since his story went viral. In fact, we never even expected it to reach so many people when his aunt shared it, but Bridger received so many kind messages, and they really gave him a lot of encouragement,” Robert said. “The world is really good at taking a negative story and making it even more negative. But in this case, a negative event has generated so much positivity and we are very grateful for it,” he added.

UAE visit

The visit to Abu Dhabi, in essence, is also another of the positive aspects generated by Bridger’s brave action. The Walkers came down on an invitation by Yas Island, where they visited Warner Bros World, Clymb Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld. They also went down to two of Abu Dhabi’s famous landmarks, the Qasr Al Watan and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

“We were so excited about seeing Qasr Al Watan and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. And more than the touristy experiences, we are really excited about connecting with the people. It is our first trip to the Middle East, and we are already blown away,” Robert said.

“We must also add that the Covid-19 precautions were so well-thought out and organised. In fact, Bridger, my husband and I were even upgraded to Business Class during our lovely flight on Etihad,” Teila said. After a few days in Abu Dhabi, the family went down to Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa.

Before leaving, Bridger had one important thing to say. “Shukran,” he said with a big smile.