Animal hall of fame pooches save owners from fire, bear, heart attack

A tenacious German shepherd cross who pulled his sleeping owner to the door amid a house fire is among five heroic hounds being inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame.

Mitch Hawman's heroic dog

Mitch Hawman's heroic dog

TORONTO — A tenacious German shepherd cross who pulled his sleeping owner to the door amid a house fire is among five heroic hounds being inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame.

Noreen Lucas credits nine-year-old Rex with saving her life last December.

Lucas had been visiting her son and his family in Aberdeen, Sask., when pneumonia struck. While the rest of the clan headed to Saskatoon for Christmas Eve dinner, Lucas took a sleeping pill and went to sleep on the couch.

Lucas was roused briefly by Rex’s barking at one point but returned to sleep. She says she only woke after Rex latched on to her leg, pulled her off the couch and dragged her across the room towards the front door.

The duo made it safely outside but by the time firefighters arrived, fire had engulfed the house.

Other inductees include a B.C. Labrador retriever-Norwegian elkhound cross who kept a bear at bay when his owners went for a walk, a Toronto Labradoodle who barked for help when his owner suffered a heart attack, and a Toronto police dog who withstood a machete attack in the line of duty.

Purina also awarded its inaugural Purina Better Together Award — recognizing the difference a pet has made in the daily life of its owner — to a six-year-old Golden retriever from Port Alberni, B.C. who is also a seizure response dog.

Since 1968, the Purina Animal Hall of Fame has inducted 172 animals, including 144 dogs, 27 cats and a horse.

A look at this year’s inductees:

Raya, a four-year-old black Labrador retriever-Norwegian elkhound cross from Fort St. John, B.C.

— Brent Cote was elk hunting last September with Raya and his mom Trudy when a bear suddenly charged, apparently to protect her young cub.

Raya ran out in front of Brent — something she was trained not to do — and barked and snapped in a way Brent had never seen before. The bear retreated, allowing Brent and Trudy to back up while Raya stayed in front.

But they were still too close and the bear charged again and again, with Raya holding her ground. Eventually the bear retreated, and all three returned safely to their truck.

——

Zola, a seven-year-old chocolate Labradoodle from Toronto

— Matthew Church returned from a long bike ride complaining of pain in his shoulder and elbow. His wife Patricia gave him a couple of Aspirin pills and he headed upstairs to watch television.

Patricia was reading with Zola resting at her feet when she heard a heavy thud. Zola suddenly began growling and barking, and urged Patricia to follow her up two flights of stairs. When they reached the top floor, they found Matthew lying face down, immobile and turning blue. His heart had stopped. Patricia immediately began CPR while their daughter called 911.

Paramedics restarted his heart and rushed Matthew to hospital where he made a full recovery.

——

Lonca, two-year-old German Shepherd police dog from Toronto

— This dedicated police dog withstood repeated machete strikes to the head, neck and body while apprehending a suspect fleeing from a home last November. Throughout the struggle, Lonca positioned himself between the suspect and the officers until the suspect finally surrendered.

Blood streaming from his mouth, Lonca then led police to the rear of the premises where they found a second suspect. Lonca was rushed to the emergency veterinary hospital and made a full recovery.

The suspect who attacked Lonca is the first in Canada to be charged under Quanto’s Law, enacted in July 2015 to hold those who hurt law enforcement animals accountable.

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