As we discovered in our research for the Talent Hounds documentary series, the human-to-animal bond is a fascinating relationship that has long been proven to be mutually-beneficial and essential to the positive health and wellbeing of both pets and owners. This connection is often illustrated by heroic and altruistic stories that prove that animals will protect us when it matters most.
Today, I watched as Purina Canada honoured three new canine pet heroes, each of whom exhibited extraordinary intelligence, loyalty and bravery to save the lives of those they love. All three are shepherd mix rescue dogs who rescued their loved one/s and have been inducted into the 2019 Purina Animal Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held at the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto where I regularly walk with Kilo the Pug. I still miss the Purina PawsWay Facility but it was the perfect place to pay tribute to these heart-wrenching stories and animals that saved the day.
Since the Purina Animal Hall of Fame program was established in 1968, 182 animals (154 dogs, 27 cats and one horse) have been inducted for courageous acts that saved a human life such as rescuing lost or injured victims, alerting to life-threatening situations and preventing fatal medical emergencies.
The event was hosted by Radio Personality and Dog-lover Blake Carter from Flow 93.5 (a fellow black rescue pug owner and foster fail).
At the event I also spoke to Katy Phillips, Purina Marketing Director and Animal Hall of Fame Ambassador, who commented
“We were truly touched by the stories of Shelby, Rosco and Tucker who displayed intellect, dedication and an astonishing ability to communicate with their owners to alert them of danger, protect them from threats, or get the help they needed in their effort to save a human life.”
Ragen T.S. McGowan, Research Scientist in the Behaviour Group at Purina, spoke about how a dog’s natural protective tendencies and extensive communication skills can make them excellent problem solvers in times of need.
“Dogs are acutely perceptive of human movement and will pay close attention to our body language. They will notice subtle changes in human attention states and adjust their own behaviour to act accordingly. Dogs that are closely bonded to their human companions will often sacrifice themselves to ensure the safety of that person. They are naturally wired as social animals to go to great lengths to help those that are part of their social group.”
Each inductee was surprised in their hometown with the news of being selected, and at the ceremony, received their medal of honour, a one year supply of Purina dog food and a professionally shot photo with their human family to commemorate the moment.
Heroic stories like the ones shared below highlight the close-knit bond that exists between people and pets – and how animals save lives. We needed the package of tissues we each got in our press kits when we watched the videos and met the dogs.
“Dogs that are closely bonded to their human companions will often sacrifice themselves to ensure the safety of that person. They are naturally wired as social animals to go to great lengths to help those that are part of their social group.”
The 2019 Purina Animal Hall of Fame Inductees:
Shelby is a 13-year-old German Shepherd and Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix rescue from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario who lives on a 35-acre property with her two owners, Louise Robillard and Andy Chyc. Shelby was brought into the family when her owners decided it was time to get a large dog to help protect the house and farm from predatory wildlife, like the foxes and coyotes that were often seen on their land.
On April 30th, 2018, Louise went out for a walk with Shelby along the trails that ran through her property. It was only moments into their walk when Louise and Shelby noticed three black bear cubs off the trail, but no mother bear in sight. Suddenly, the mother bear appeared and started charging toward Louise. Shelby ran quickly between the bear and Louise and stood her ground in an effort to protect her owner. The bear slammed into Shelby, and both animals rolled around on the ground, before disappearing into some bushes, still fighting. From where she stood and watched, all that Louise could hear were shrieks from Shelby.
Back at home, Andy received a call from a neighbour warning him that a bear was sighted in the area. Andy immediately headed out to warn Louise, who was walking in the same area. As he approached the trail, he could hear screaming, and initially believed it was Louise who was being attacked by the bear. Then all fell silent.
Believing that the bear had killed Shelby, Andy and Louise started to make their way back toward the house where it was safe. Before they got too far, they saw Shelby emerging from the bushes, but barely able to walk. The extensive injuries their dog had endured in the bear attack were visible on her body, and they immediately rushed her to the nearby Animal Hospital for emergency surgery.
Over the next four months Shelby sustained several operations, had tubes inserted into her wounds for draining, and endured many physiotherapy sessions to get her back to a stable condition.
Louise knows that without Shelby’s courageous actions and devotion to her owner she might not have lived on to share her hound’s heroic story. Louise and Andy witnessed the extent of Shelby’s protective qualities that day through a selfless act that ultimately saved her human’s life.
Rosco is a three-year-old large Shepherd mixed breed from Calgary, Alberta. Rosco was one of eight puppies born to a stray dog that lived under the steps of a firehall. After being left behind when a rescue team picked up his mother and her litter, Brittany Ouellette adopted Rosco and brought him into her home where she lived with her father, Bryan, as well as her partner, and her baby son, Bennett.
On the morning of November 3rd, 2018, Brittany and her family decided to take a day trip to the Banff mountains. Since her father, Bryan, wasn’t feeling well that day, he decided not to join the family on the hike. Brittany decided to leave Rosco at home with her father to keep him company.
Bryan was lying in bed, watching the football game and needed to get up to use the washroom. As he tried to get up, he realized he wasn’t able to. He then attempted to roll out of bed and fell onto the bedroom floor. The whole left side of his body was numb, and he realized he was having a stroke. Unable to call for help, Bryan used his right foot to lightly tap on the floor and get Rosco’s attention.
Rosco heard the tapping and came to the bedroom to find Bryan. As Rosco approached the bed, Bryan was able to grab hold of Rosco’s collar with his right hand. Rosco then swung Bryan around, allowing him to reach a bracket on the side of the bed, which he then used to prop himself up, grab his phone on the bed, and call 9-1-1. With the ambulance on the way, Bryan grabbed onto Rosco’s collar again and let Rosco pull him gently down the hall to the front door. The paramedics arrived at the house within minutes, and took Bryan to the hospital to undergo emergency surgery.
Brittany and her family, who were still up in the mountains, received the call that Bryan had suffered a stroke and was in surgery. They rushed back to the city where they waited for several hours in the hospital waiting from to see Bryan after this surgery.
Bryan survived the stroke and has made an incredible recovery thanks to Rosco’s quick support to help him in a dire situation. If Rosco wasn’t there to intervene and the paramedics reached Bryan any later, the damage from the stroke could have cost Bryan his life.
Tucker is a six-year-old Shepherd and Rottweiler mix from the Niagara-on-the-Lake region in Ontario. Rachel Spiewak adopted Tucker as a Christmas present for her two boys. When Rachel met Jason Chafe, Tucker was quickly accepted into his new family which now consisted of Rachel’s two older boys from a previous marriage, Jason’s young son, and a toddler that they share together.
On the evening of September 16th, 2018, Rachel and Jason were at home with their two youngest sons, while Rachel’s two eldest sons were staying at their father’s. As it was getting late, Rachel, Jason, Tucker and their youngest son retreated to the master bedroom for the night. A couple hours later, Rachel was awoken by Tucker who was displaying unusual behaviour – barking, pacing, whining, and pawing at the bed in an effort to wake his owners. After trying to ignore the dog, Rachel and Jason finally realized something was actually wrong, and Jason got out of bed to see what was going on.
When he opened the door, the whole room filled with light and all they could see was a bright orange wall of fire. The fire alarms had not gone off because there was no smoke in the house, it had all bellowed directly outside.
The couple knew they had to get out of the house right away, so Jason went to get one son who was sleeping in his own bedroom, Rachel grabbed their other son who was staying in their room, and they planned to all meet outside with Tucker.
Once outside, the family watched in horror as their entire house was engulfed in flames. By the time the fire trucks, ambulance and police arrived, the damage was too great to save the home so the local firefighters concentrated on controlling the fire, preventing it from spreading to neighbouring homes.
That night, the family lost everything as the fire destroyed their home. Despite losing valuable items, mementos, and irreplaceable family memories, they all got out alive that night, thanks to Tucker’s life-saving instincts and his keen ability to communicate with his owners.