A Tamworth man, who was just millimetres from death after breaking his neck last year, has credited daily visits from his working dog at the city hospital for keeping him strong during a marathon recovery.
Doctors said Jim Black, 80, was lucky to be alive after he broke his neck in a horse riding accident in August last year.
A neighbour found him on his Winton property and helped the farmer walk to his car, then drove him to the Tamworth hospital.
The doctors told Mr Black if he had moved any more it was "goodnight and goodbye," he said.
"I'd broken my neck right up where all the nerves are that help you to breathe," Mr Black said.
"If I moved the wrong way, even by just a couple of millimetres, I would be dead."
He was put in a neck collar, intubated, fed with tubes and was in and out of the hospital operating theatre for months.
It wasn't a comfortable setting for the farmer of 40 years.
So hospital staff had an idea.
"One of the girls in [the intensive care unit] said to me what about his dog? Do you want to bring his dog in?" wife Sandy said.
"I don't think she realised he was a blue cattle dog and rather large."
But 30-kilogram working dog Boots took to his new life as a therapy dog.
Soon he was visiting the Tamworth hospital every day - though the trips were initially a bit of an mystery for the massive nine-year-old.
"It took him a while to figure out what the visits were all about," Mr Black said.
"When he left the hospital each day, he'd get me by the hand and try to take me home with him.
"I had a tracheostomy tube in place so I couldn't talk to him and tell him what's going on."
Boots travelled alongside his master to specialists for a month-long stay in Newcastle.
Six months after leaving hospital, Mr Black is now able to walk and is learning how to talk, swallow, eat and drink again.
He's almost finished restoring the 1925 Dodge Brothers Touring Car he's been working on for years.
Jim and Sandy Black praised the staff at Tamworth hospital's intensive care unit for the care - and flexibility - they showed the family.
"The care Jim got was second to none," Sandy said.
"They became like family, really. We couldn't fault them, they were wonderful. We want to give them a big rap."
Boots has retired from working life and now lives a life of privilege. He's allowed to travel in the car, which was previously off-limits. He enjoys dog treats every evening and sleeps inside, next to Jim's side of the bed.