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An eight-year-old pit bull named Lilly is being hailed a hero after frantically pulling her unconscious owner from train tracks moments before a freight train barreled through.

The engineer who stopped the train saw the dog pulling her owner, Christine Spain, away from the tracks around midnight local time May 4 in Shirley, Massachusetts, around 39 miles (63km) northwest of Boston.

The train engineer attempted to stop but could not avoid hitting Lilly.

Spain was not injured, but Lilly suffered a complete “de-gloving” of her right foot – all of the muscle and skin were gone. Her pelvis was fractured in multiple locations, and she also suffered other internal injuries. But even as police and firefighters arrived at the scene, Lilly stayed by her owner’s side.

Lilly was taken to an emergency animal hospital in Acton where Boston police officer David Lanteigne, who rescued Lilly three years ago as a therapy dog for his alcoholic mother, picked Lilly up and brought her to Angell Animal Medical Centre in Boston, where emergency veterinarians examined her.

Lilly’s right front leg could not be saved and had to be amputated, and because of her age, doctors decided not to operate on her pelvis until she had time to recover from the amputation.

She had the second surgery on Sunday and was recovering today in Angell’s Emergency and Critical Care unit in a kennel adorned with pictures, notes and get-well cards brought by her family, friends and neighbors.

Because Lilly’s medical care likely will run into the thousands of dollars, a fund was set up for donations to help offset her treatment costs.