"I am forever grateful to him."
Zeus Pit Bull Puppy
Credit: Facebook/Gina Richardson

Two young Florida boys are here today because of the heroic actions of their dog—actions that cost the courageous nine-month-old pit bull puppy his life.

The Richardson family is both thankful and heartbroken after their beloved Zeus sacrificed himself to protect two of their four children from a venomous snake.

Mom Gina told CNN that her son Oriley, 10, was playing in the family's backyard in Webster last week when Zeus sprang towards him. Oriley said he saw the pup attacking something on the ground, and assumed it was a rope.

But it was a coral snake, a member of a group of reptiles that has the second-strongest venom of any snakes.

As Zeus struggled to keep the snake at bay, 11-year-old Orion stepped into the backyard to change the puppy's water.

It's at that point, with both boys in the yard, that Zeus decided to lay down on the predator and use his body weight to smother it. Unfortunately, the snake managed to bite Zeus four times before the puppy bit off and swallowed its head.

The Richardsons rushed the dying pup to a nearby animal hospital, but it was too late. Despite two vials of anti-venom, sweet Zeus passed away the next day.

"He gave his life to keep our sons safe," Gina wrote on Facebook. "I am forever grateful to him."

Gary, the boys' father, told CNN that he hopes Zeus' selfless act will help change public perception of pit bulls.

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"He was my best friend," Gary said. "I'm torn between wanting to be happy that this situation has brought awareness to his breed and their kind and loving nature, and the sorrow of having lost him."