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”.