Thoughts on Purina Hall of Fame Winners 2011

On Monday, May 16th, the Purina Hall of Fame held its 43rd annual award for Canadian companion animals.  These animals have saved lives, either by physically rescuing people from dangerous situations, or by being there during a difficult period in a person’s life.  Here is a brief synopsis of their stories.

Moose, a Whippet from Trenton, ON, saved Alexis Sararas, a three year old girl.  Her neck was caught in a gate, so Moose alerted Alexis’ mother, who promptly freed her.

Two dogs from Alberta, an Australian cattle dog named Scooter, and a border collie named Missy used their herding abilities to save their “dog mom”, Glenda Mosher, from the neighbour’s ornery cow.  After the bad tempered cow knocked Glenda over, the dogs herded the cow away from her.  Their award was bittersweet, as Scooter died of old age recently.

The next two stories are about dogs that support people with special needs.  Stinky, of Manitoba’s Search and Rescue’s psychiatric therapy dog team, serves as a “loaner dog”, visiting soldiers who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  As I mentioned in a previous article, animals can be a real life saver for those with PTSD and other anxiety disorders.  (If you are wondering where Stinky got her unusual name, it came from her unfortunate encounters with skunks!)

K’os, a French Neapolitan Mastiff in Peterborough, ON, saved fourteen year old Hunter Guindon from a seizure.  Hunter, who has cystic fibrosis and epilepsy, developed his first seizure at night.  When Hunter stopped breathing, due to a combination of his two conditions, K’os alerted the Hunter’s parents, who got him safely to the hospital.

All these stories truly illustrate the unbreakable bond between dogs and people.  But of all these inspiring stories, K’os and Hunter’s story felt the most personal to me.  Having relatives and friends with epilepsy or cystic fibrosis, I know how serious these conditions really are.

Unlike other service animals, seizure alerting is something that some dogs are born with the ability to do.  No one knows why this is, but it is something that we can be grateful for.

On a related note, I just read a really interesting book entitled My Dog Is a Genius,by David Taylor, DVM.  This book talks about how dogs perceive the world, gives tips on how to make your dog smarter, and contains amazing stories of smart dogs, many of whom are service animals.

Thanks to all the wonderful animals who share their lives with us.  Every animal that devotes oneself to someone is a true winner.

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