Honourable Mentions

 

Purina AHOF social KobyMeet Koby, a five-year-old German Shepherd, Border Collie and Husky mix from Toronto and his owner, Emily Sweet. After enduring bullying, severe depression and anxiety during her highschool years, Emily rescued Koby, trained him to be her service dog and petitioned to have him join her at school. After much campaigning, Koby was the first self-trained service dog in history to be allowed into a Canadian school and now this program is available to millions of students across the country – previously students were required to go through an official organization, where waitlists were often years long and fees were up to $20,000.

Koby’s support has positively changed Emily’s outlook on life, helping her graduate from school, enroll in university and go on to publicly speak about her experiences. Purina understands the impact that pets can have on mental health and is proud to support the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)’s work around the bond between people and animals, including research and pet therapy.

 

Purina AHOF social SmileySmiley was a beloved therapy dog from Whitchurch-Stouffile, ON, who was known for his irresistible grin and ability to put smiles on the faces of those he met. Born without eyes and a form of canine dwarfism, Smiley spent his first two years in horrific conditions at a breeding kennel before being rescued and adopted by his owner Joanne George. By the time he passed away at the age of 16 from cancer in October 2017, Smiley had amassed a huge following of more than 200,000 devoted Instagram fans who would turn to him for the kindness, joy and hope he made them feel. Since 2010, Smiley has helped countless people as a child therapy dog, comforting hospital patients, children with autism, and those living in nursing homes alike.

Arik

Arik, an eight-year-old German Shepherd’s natural instinct and highly refined sense of hearing and smell were put to the ultimate test, when he came to the rescue of an elderly man who faced a near-fatal situation in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.

On March 3, 2017, Lloyd Stone, a very active 90-year-old, was out cross-country skiing, a regular leisure activity that he enjoyed. Suddenly, he hit some ice and fell on his side – breaking his hip and leaving him in excruciating pain. The intensity of the pain made it impossible for Lloyd to reach the nearby highway and starting to lose hope, he dipped in and out of consciousness.

Three hours later, at 8 p.m., it was getting dark when Lloyd’s neighbour Calvin Kuchta was driving by and recognized his car on the side of the road. He had seen it earlier while going to the gym, and thinking it was a little out of character for Lloyd to be out for so long and so late, Calvin headed home to collect his dog Arik to help him investigate.

Arik was an accomplished former police dog, so Calvin knew he needed Arik to be able to successfully find Lloyd. Unable to use Arik’s leash, Calvin creatively fastened a skipping rope around Arik’s neck to help him track Lloyd’s scent in the woods and returned to the area. As the duo searched deeper into the bush, they finally heard a man’s voice calling for help, triggering Arik into action.

Arik broke his skipping-rope-fashioned leash and bounded into the woods where he found Lloyd lying on the snow-covered ground. Calvin called 911 immediately and Lloyd was taken to a nearby hospital.

Had Arik not been there to help locate him so quickly, Lloyd would have likely suffered from severe hypothermia, and potentially frozen to death.

Sabrina

Sabrina, a 12-year-old Whippet’s, loyalty and aptitude was put to the ultimate test when her owner Adele Schwartz had a horrific, almost fatal fall in the middle of the night.

It was 2a.m. one dark September morning, when Adele awoke to use the bathroom. She unfortunately took a wrong turn and tumbled down the basement stairs, hitting her head and instantly falling unconscious. Being a deep sleeper, Adele’s husband Bill didn’t hear a thing until Sabrina woke him by causing a commotion – nudging him repeatedly and pulling the comforter off their bed.

Typically, a calm and quiet dog, Bill was alarmed by Sabrina’s uncharacteristic behaviour and, after realizing Adele was no longer lying beside him, got out of bed to investigate what had happened. Sabrina led Bill to find Adele’s motionless body at the bottom of the stairs. Incredibly frightened and worried, Bill immediately called an ambulance.

Due to the fall, Adele had a fractured vertebra in her neck, a compression fracture in her back and her head had split open, causing a severe concussion that left her unconscious for three days. Adele stayed 10 more days in the hospital and several more months recovering.

Today, Adele says she owes her life to Sabrina. Had Sabrina not acted so quickly, Adele likely wouldn’t have survived the fall or suffered permanent brain damage.

Ruth and Lady

Ruth and Lady, a two-year-old Akbash/Yellow Labrador/Border Collie cross and a seven-year-old Yellow Labrador/Border Collie cross respectively, demonstrated their incredible intelligence and ability to communicate quickly and effectively, the night they saved their owner Matthew Smith’s life.

It was a chilly afternoon in early April 2017 when Matthew Smith hit the road with his dogs, Ruth and Lady, to run a few errands in Kelowna, a town located 45 kilometers from his home. At around 8 p.m., Matthew decided to drive back home. While navigating a very steep road, 3 kilometers from his house, he lost control of his vehicle and crashed – falling down an embankment.

Matthew miraculously survived this fall but was severely injured. Although he managed to get himself, Ruth and Lady out of the truck, the severity of Matthew’s traumatic injuries, which included head trauma, a lacerated liver and multiple broken ribs, rendered him incapable of getting help, and he collapsed. The temperature soon dropped to zero degrees, and recognizing the seriousness of Matthew’s situation, Ruth and Lady lay on either side of him, hoping to keep him warm and comforted in the freezing conditions.

Hours later, a homeowner living nearby returned from work to find Ruth and Lady barking on his driveway, signaling him to follow them. The gentleman followed the dogs and discovered Matthew in critical condition, lying bleeding on the ground. He immediately called 911 and even after the emergency services arrived, Ruth and Lady refused to leave Matthew’s side, showcasing their loyalty and devotion to protect him.

Matthew is currently in the process of recovering from the terrible accident and thanks Ruth and Lady for saving his life. Without their quick-thinking, loyalty and exceptional communication skills, Matthew knows he would not have lived on to share his story.

Coco

Purina Better Together Award – Kim and Coco’s Story: I never ever wanted a dog but my husband and daughters talked me into taking get Coco – a 2 year old dog who was being given away because his owner was going away to school and her mom was a nurse and worked long hours and didn’t have the time to dedicate to Coco. I was a bit resentful when the first minute he walked into my brand new home he decided to leave a present for me right on my kitchen floor. I had only agreed to take him for the weekend for a trial run and after this little incident couldn’t wait to send him back to his own home. That night however seeing him jump on my daughter’s beds and sniffing them to ensure they were ok – melted my heart and I instantly fell in love with him and he became my third child. Two years later my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. My whole family was devastated to say the least. She deteriorated quickly over the next 8 months and just to breathe was a struggle. The picture I have submitted is a day close to the end of her life. Normally Coco is always in the kitchen waiting for food to drop but this particular day and every day after he went right into the living room where my mother’s hospital bed was and laid beside her and never left her side until we would leave to go home. After my mother’s passing my father was very lonely after living with my mom for 50 years – he was a lost soul without her. Coco and I would go visit him often and Coco would jump on his lap every time and he brought comfort and joy to my dad each and every time. He is a blessing from God to our family and I’m not sure what we will ever do without him when the time comes. The love I feel for him is so strong and I can’t believe there was ever a time when I didn’t want a dog. He is our hero each and every day.

Skylar

Skylar, a three-year-old, golden retriever from Port Hope, Ontario, exemplifies all of the well-known characteristics of his breed – a sweet, energetic and caring companion to his owner Grace Goheen, 74.

On a cold December afternoon in 2015, Grace set out for a walk with Skylar in a secluded wooded valley located two and a half kilometers from their home. Like any dog, Skylar loves to explore the great outdoors, so on this particular day, Grace extended his leash to 20 feet as they meandered through the valley. After wandering for some time, Skylar smelled something intriguing and ran ahead. As Skylar set off to investigate, Grace slipped and fell on the hard ground, breaking her hip.

In excruciating pain, and despite numerous efforts, Grace could not get back on her feet. Since she had no cell phone to call for help, she attempted the journey back home by pulling her body backwards using her arms and her good leg. However, still a great distance from home, she realized the enormity of her situation and that it would be impossible for her get there on her own.  After an hour passed and through sheer exhaustion, Grace gave up and began to cry out of pain, desperation and fear of what might happen if they weren’t found soon. It was getting dark and having previously heard the howls of bears and coyotes in the area, she was petrified of the dangerous wildlife that roamed there at night.

A short time later, Grace decided to unleash Skylar, but based on their incredibly close bond he wouldn’t leave her side. She then began to yell for help in hopes that someone would hear her, but also knew full well that no one usually came to the area this time of year. Her clothes were now completely drenched through to her skin from the melted snow and to make matters worse, a cold rain started to fall. With little hope of being rescued, Grace lay on the ground, shivering profusely and overcome with emotion.

Finally, two bright headlights appeared in the distance and, much to Grace’s relief, it was her neighbour, Mike who was driving nearby. Grace urgently prompted Skylar to, “go find Mike!” but to her confusion, he ran in the opposite direction of the headlights. It soon became clear that Skylar was in fact thinking ahead and wanted a signal to help alert Mike of the situation. Skylar ran back to the spot where Grace had dropped her mittens hours prior, picked one up in his mouth and ran back towards the headlights.

Stopping his truck, Mike looked over to see Skylar running towards him. Concerned about why the dog was all alone, he noticed Skylar holding a mitten in his mouth. Based on this, Mike understood Skylar was trying to tell him something. So he got out of his truck and followed Skylar into the bush – where he eventually discovered Grace lying injured on the ground and shaking from the cold. Amazed by how Skylar guided him there, Mike immediately covered Grace with his jacket and called the paramedics. Grace was taken to the hospital, treated for hypothermia and admitted to surgery to fix her hip.

Over a year later, Grace has now fully recovered from the accident – but never forgets how close she came to losing her life. A local police officer felt compelled to recognize Skylar for his heroism – nominating him as a Purina Animal Hall of Fame inductee. After all, it was thanks to Skylar’s intelligence, quick thinking and resourcefulness that led to Grace’s survival in what could have been a fatal night in the snowy wilderness.

Becky Jo

Becky Jo is an attentive five-year-old Australian shepherd/border collie cross from Edmonton, Alberta who is a loyal companion to her owner Tracy Matkea. Every year, Tracy and her husband Butch spend the winter at their ranch in Morristown, Arizona – where they raise and train horses for barrel racing. Tracy, who has long been active on the rodeo circuit, often brings Becky Jo with her while out training on horseback in the desert terrain. One morning Becky Jo proved to be much more than her trusted sidekick.

January 10, 2016 began just like any other day. Tracy embarked on a test ride with a young horse and ventured down a dry riverbed 500 yards from her home, with Becky Jo following closely behind.

During the ride, the horse suddenly got spooked and threw Tracy from the saddle and onto the ground, knocking her unconscious instantly. Adding to the already perilous situation, Tracy’s foot was caught in the stirrup of the saddle and the horse dragged her unconscious body along the rough and rocky desert terrain for almost a kilometer. Eventually Tracy’s foot came loose and the horse returned to the ranch house without her.

When the horse arrived home without Tracy Butch was very confused, but only realized that something much more alarming had happened when Becky Jo also returned alone. Upon her arrival, Becky Jo started circling the driveway and barking repeatedly to alert him that something was terribly wrong. In a panic, Butch hopped onto an ATV and followed Becky Jo almost five kilometers from the family home to find Tracy lying motionless on the ground and bleeding profusely.

Butch immediately took Tracy to the nearest hospital. There they determined that based on the extent of her injuries she needed to be airlifted to Phoenix. There she received lifesaving treatment for the serious injuries she endured, including extreme facial and head lacerations, a broken orbital bone and a major concussion.

More than 100 stitches and staples later, Tracy has made a full recovery and truly owes her life to Becky Jo. Without Becky Jo’s quick thinking and fast action, Tracy could very well have lost her life that day. According to doctors, had she been left bleeding for 10 minutes longer she wouldn’t have survived. Tracy always knew in her heart that Becky Jo was a smart dog and now knows that it was this intelligence that ultimately saved her life.

Leo

Leo, a Biewer Yorkshire terrier, from Ottawa, Ontario, was just four months old when his new owner Brittany Cosgrove, 26, adopted him from a local breeder. And, it was only a few days following this adoption that he showed his owner just how much determination and devotion even a small, young puppy can have.

In December 2016, only 10 days into their new relationship, Brittany brought Leo with her to her Vancouver apartment following a visit home for the holidays with her family in Ottawa. It was New Year’s Eve and after putting Leo to bed, Brittany had settled into a deep sleep herself. Suffering from insomnia, Brittany often didn’t sleep well – but when she did, it was quite difficult to wake her. So at 2 a.m., when Brittany woke to the startling noise of Leo aggressively barking, she knew he must have been trying to get her attention for a while. Puzzled as to why Leo was behaving this way, Brittany got out of bed to investigate. This was very much out of character for Leo who, until this point, had been a very quiet and reserved puppy.
Brittany thought at first Leo was warning her about an intruder. It was only when she attempted to go into her bathroom – which neighboured the very bedroom she had been sleeping in minutes before – that she witnessed flames dripping from the walls and ceiling.

Frightened by the fact that this fire had not set off any alarms, Brittany frantically reached for her phone to call the fire department. The fire started to spread even more – becoming increasingly uncontrollable.

As the blaze grew, Brittany grabbed Leo, and fled from her apartment. Shortly after, the fire had taken over the whole apartment complex, forcing 30 other residents from their homes and severely damaging the entire building. Since no smoke detectors went off that night, the other residents wouldn’t have known to evacuate if Brittany hadn’t called the fire department in time. Thankfully everyone escaped unharmed – and it was Leo’s persistent barking and perseverance to wake Brittany that began this crucial chain of events. His keen intuition to recognize the dangerous nature of the fire – new sights, sounds and smells he had never encountered before as a puppy – is what led everyone to safety.

A few weeks after the incident and after losing nearly everything she owned as a result of the fire, Brittany left Vancouver and moved back to Ottawa with her mother. Although she has had to start over again, Brittany is forever grateful to have Leo, her heroic puppy by her side as she looks to the future.

Zola

Zola, a good-natured and loveable chocolate Labradoodle, first joined the Church family almost eight years ago, despite some initial protest from Matthew Church himself. He didn’t necessarily deem himself a “dog person” but after considerable pressure (including a well-researched essay) from one of his daughters, Olivia, Matthew and his wife Patricia conceded to adding a new member to their family. What Matthew did not realize at the time, was how Zola would prove herself and make the family forever grateful she joined their clan.

At 11:40 p.m. a few weeks before Christmas 2014, Matthew returned from a long bike ride complaining to Patricia of pain in his shoulder and elbow. She gave him a couple of aspirin before Matthew headed up to the third floor of their downtown Toronto home to watch television. Suddenly and without warning his heart stopped and with it, all his vital functions. Matthew fell to the floor, and was clinically dead. Totally unaware two floors below, Patricia, was in the living room reading in front of the fire with Zola resting quietly at her feet. Patricia heard a heavy thud but ignored her typical tendencies to worry, brushed off the random noise and settled back into reading. Zola, normally a quiet dog with a relaxed demeanour, jumped to her feet and began growling, and barking at Patricia – aggressively trying to rouse her. Patricia didn’t know what to make of this behavior as it was so out of character. Zola practically chased Patricia to the base of the stairs and continued barking and growling. Not knowing what else to do, Patricia followed Zola up the stairs.

When Patricia and Zola finally reached the top of the stairs they found Matthew lying face down, immobile, turning blue and without vital signs. Patricia, a hospital-based psychiatrist trained and retrained annually in Basic Cardiac Life Support, immediately began CPR. Their daughter Alice called 911 and in less than 10 minutes paramedics arrived. In a third attempt, a defibrillator restarted Matthew’s heart and he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. He miraculously made a full recovery and truly believes he is here today thanks to Zola’s keen intuition and persistence. What exactly did Zola sense that night two floors above? We may never know. But Matthew is indebted to Zola for her actions in what instigated the incredible series of interventions that not only saved his life, but in fact brought him back to life. Zola now wears a badge of honour, a brass tag engraved with the words, “I saved my human’s life”.

 

Raya

From the moment Brent Cote met Raya, a black Labrador Retriever Norwegian Elkhound cross, he knew she was destined to be his companion. Brent was looking for a hunting dog when his wife Amanda came across a posting to adopt a one-year-old puppy. Raya took to the entire the family right away, especially to Brent. They soon discovered what she lacked in manners and training in those early days, she made up for in loyalty and dedication. Little did Brent know at the time, Raya would go above and beyond as his loyal sidekick.

In September 2015, Brent was keen to go elk hunting with now four-year-old Raya and decided to call his mom Trudy to join him. Amanda typically would go with Brent but needed to stay home to help their two young boys get ready for the start of the school year. Trudy was happy to join her son on this excursion as she loves the outdoors and walking. Over the years, Brent had trained Raya who quickly became a worthy companion on their outdoor adventures – she wears her pack carrying all of their essentials, follows right behind Brent and never strays off. On this particular day, they hiked around for several hours but as dusk set in, decided to head home and walk back along the forest cutline to return to their truck. When suddenly about 20 feet in front of them, the bush exploded and a sow bear came charging at them, huffing and clacking her teeth, to protect her young cub, at any cost. Just as quickly, Raya ran out in front of Brent (something she is trained not to do when hiking with her pack) barking and snapping at the bear in a way Brent had never heard or seen before. Raya stopped the bear in her tracks and she retreated. As Brent and Trudy started to back up, Raya stayed out in front but they were all still too close in proximity to the bear. Still feeling threatened, the bear charged for a second and then a third time, leaving Brent and Trudy fearful that this nightmare would not end well. Raya continued to keep the bear at bay. The bear, along with her cub, eventually retreated enough to allow Brent, Trudy and Raya time to get back to the truck.

Once safely inside, Trudy and Brent had a chance to fully absorb just how life-threatening this encounter was and recognize Raya’s heroic and selfless actions. There is no doubt in their minds that Raya ultimately put her life at risk that day to save theirs.