He had strength for one last call for help.

It was 10pm and pensioner Alex Gray was lying in agony on his front lawn hoping someone would come to his aid. He had gone outside to pick up his wheelie bin that had fallen over on a stormy night in the small town of Wallacetown, near Invercargill. “The wind shot me off my feet and put me on the ground," Gray said. "Sitting there with my legs out and I couldn't roll or get on my side or anything."

He broke his hip, femur and other bones in his left leg in the fall. Patch, the next door neighbour's bichon foxie, was the first to Gray's side, followed by owner Doug Harvey.

Gray spent five weeks in hospital and another eight weeks recovering at the Lochiel home of his daughter, Sue Frisby. He returned home this week with a St John medical alarm to wear around his neck. He didn't have an alarm previously.

Gray, 84, and Harvey, 81, recalled the ordeal on Wednesday, with Patch close by. Patch visits Gray quite often.

“I owe them … I wouldn’t have lasted another half an hour with the cold and pain," Gray said. "I had been yelling for 20 minutes and no-one heard me. It was hailing, cold and blowing a gale and I thought I had [energy for] one last yell for help."

Harvey lives with his daughter, Joanne Harvey, and grandson, Allan Harvey-Savage, and all three were sleeping.

Patch was sleeping on the end of Doug's bed and both awoke when hearing Gray's last call. Patch went outside and quickly found Gray, and was then joined by Harvey.

"It took four of us to carry him," Harvey said. He got his daughter, grandson and Kylie White, who lives nearby and is married to Gray's granddaughter, to carry Gray to his car to await an ambulance.

Abridged, taken from an article by Jamie Searly, Southland Times, 14 September 2017.