Samuri, an Akita, was the runt of a litter of eight pups. That made him the obvious choice for Jo-Ann and Don Drozdowski, who wanted an addition to their household. They realized later that their new pet was born blind, which only endeared him even more to the Winnipeg couple.
But Samuri – meaning guard or warrior in Japanese – compensated for his lack of sight with his devotion, his heightened sense of hearing and attentiveness. Last November, about six years after he came to the Drozdowski family, Samuri’s special skills became a fateful blessing for a neighbour across the street.
It was getting dark and a dusting of snow had fallen. Inside the house, Jo-Ann, Don, and their son, Johnathan, were watching television. Samuri, who was outside in the yard, began barking insistently. It was a demanding bark, something that seemed out of character for the dog.
Something had to be wrong. Don stepped outside to investigate. He couldn’t see anything at first but Samuri had heard something and seemed to be directing him towards the street. There, against the curb, Don saw a dark shape. Still unable to make out what the shape was, Don walked towards the far curb.
He saw the shape was a person who had fallen to the ground. Then he recognized Kathy Arnold, the young college student who lived with her mother, Eileen, across the street. Kathy was slipping in and out of consciousness, mumbling incoherently. But her cries were too faint to be heard, except by a blind Akita across the street.
Don cradled Kathy’s head, Jo-Ann brought a blanket, and Johnathan called 911. Eileen came out and so did her son, Ron, who lived next door. Within minutes, paramedics had stabilized Kathy before taking her to hospital.
Kathy, 25, has lupus and suffered a stroke that night as she returned home from class. She underwent therapy in hospital and returned home to continue her rehabilitation, including speech therapy. The stroke also left her with paralysis on her right side.
The Arnolds credit Samuri as the guard that helped save Kathy. “I’m so thankful that Samuri was watching out, or should I say listening out, for my daughter,” says Eileen. “He was her guardian angel that night.”
How one dog claimed his way to the Purina Animal Hall of Fame™
Out of a litter of eight Akita pups, Samuri was the runt that Jo-Ann and Don Drozdowski chose to welcome into their Winnipeg home, and lucky for Kathy Arnold that they did.
Samuri was blind. In compensation for his lack of sight, he had a heightened sense of hearing and attentiveness – so heightened that when Kathy, a young student who lived across the street with her mother – had a stroke and collapsed against the curb outside their home one evening, Samuri began to bark insistently and out of character.
Because of Samuri’s insistence, Don finally stepped outside where he found Kathy and called 911. Kathy, who is still recovering from the effects of her stroke, owes her life to Samuri. “He was her guardian angel that night,” says Kathy’s mother, Eileen.
Samuri is one of four pet heroes honoured in 2006 by the Purina Animal Hall of Fame for showing outstanding courage, loyalty and bravery in helping a human life. And he’s one of more than a hundred pet heroes that have been recognized since the program’s inception in 1968.
The stories of animal bravery submitted over the years are remarkable. There’s Indian Red, a Morgan quarterhorse, who, in 1978, drew attention to a 77-year-old woman who had collapsed and fallen into a snow-covered ditch on a country road one winter night.
From 1975, there’s Shep the dog who heard the screams of her owners’ grandson, Lance, and charged a 350-pound black bear that was mauling the boy.
And there’s Napoleon the Siamese cat who, in 1980, scratched and even bit her sleeping owner to awaken her when the woman’s electric blanket and mattress caught fire early one morning.