Shelby

Shelby is a 14-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 on her routine 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.

Tucker

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 helped unite the blended family, bringing together 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.

Rosco

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.

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.