5 Heroic Dogs Who Made the Hall of Fame


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Have you ever wondered if your dog would protect you in a life-threatening or health-threatening situation? I wonder about my two sometimes. I mean, I know that Janice and Leroy love me, but if something really, really bad should occur, could I rely on them to save my life?

Janice is an extremely intelligent dog, probably the canine equivalent of a rocket scientist. Sometimes she does things that just totally blow me away, and I think, “That dog has a really fine brain!” So if I were in danger, I’d want her on my side. She’d probably call 911, punch out the nature of the emergency in Morse code on the phone buttons, and perform CPR until the paramedics arrived.

Leroy, on the other hand… well, he’s a doofus. But he’s MY doofus and I love him. I wouldn’t want to have to rely on him in an emergency, though.

So, what brought me to thinking about protective, heroic dogs? I got an email last week from Kelli, a friend who lives in Canada. It read, “Hey, Ash, you need to know about this,” and included a link to the Purina Animal Hall of Fame, which is dedicated to honoring dogs who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help humans.

This Canadian dog food manufacturer has recognized pets (not just dogs, although that’s all we’ll talk about here, since the title of this website is SimplyForDogs.com, and has nothing to do with cats, ferrets, hamsters, or any other sort of pet!) for over 40 years, for bravery and heroism.

Oh, and all you cat people out there? 27 cats have been honored, as opposed to 136 dogs. Hey, just saying!

Over four decades, the Purina Animal Hall of Fame has honored pets who have rescued their people from attacks by humans and other animals, identified medical emergencies that could have resulted in death, saved their people from fires, and more. Keep reading to learn about five heroic dogs that have made a huge difference in the lives of the humans who love them.

1. Zola

Zola wasn’t wanted in the beginning, at least not by her Dad. Matthew Church wasn’t exactly a dog-hater, but he wasn’t a “dog person” either, and he was initially resistant to welcoming Zola, a friendly, affectionate Labradoodle, into his household. His wife, Patricia, wasn’t all that on-side with getting a dog either, but their daughter, Olivia, made a very persuasive case. In fact, she researched and wrote an essay detailing the benefits of owning a dog and presented it to her parents.

Olivia must have been very committed and very reasonable in her approach, because Matthew and Patricia agreed to adopt a dog. Olivia’s arguments made sense – a dog could be a real asset to the family. Just how much of an asset, though, Matthew and Patricia didn’t begin to understand until Zola saved Matthew’s life.

In 2014, shortly before Christmas, Matthew came home from a bike ride. He couldn’t recall an injury, but said that he was having pain in his elbow and shoulder. Thinking it wasn’t a big deal, he just took a couple of aspirin and then went upstairs to watch TV. Patricia remained downstairs reading a book. A couple of hours later, Patricia heard a noise, but didn’t think much about it. Zola, on the other hand, knew that something was very, very wrong.

Zola was typically a very laid-back dog and not given to barking over every little thing. So when Zola jumped up and started growling and barking aggressively Patricia knew something was wrong. She didn’t know exactly what it was, but Zola seemed to want her to go to the stairs. Not knowing what was going on, Patricia followed her instincts and let Zola lead her upstairs. What she found horrified her – Matthew was lying at the top of the stairs, face down, and he wasn’t moving. He was also turning blue. Patricia began CPR and told her daughter, Alice, to call 911. Paramedics were on the scene within minutes and immediately tried to re-start Matthew’s heart using a defibrillator. It took three tries.

What would have happened if Zola hadn’t insisted that Patricia follow her up the stairs? Most likely Michael would have died. The dog he hadn’t wanted saved his life.

What did Zola pick up on? Who knows? Whatever it was, she knew that Matthew was in distress and she reacted. Her actions resulted in Matthew being revived on-site and then getting the surgery that was needed to save his life. Today, Zola is a member of the Purina Animal Hall of Fame and she proudly wears a brass tag with the words “I saved my human’s life” engraved on it.

Good dog, Zola!

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2. Raya

Raya is a cross between a black Labrador and a Norwegian Elkhound and when Brent and Amanda Cole adopted her, they figured they were in for trouble – she was a year old, rambunctious, destructive, and ill-mannered. Just the same, they loved her, and she was a welcome addition to their family. She bonded especially hard to Brent. He had no idea, though, of the extent of her love and loyalty and how it would affect him in the years to come.

Three years later, Brent decided to go hunting elk with his mother, Trudy. Usually, Amanda would also come along on the trip, but this time around she was knee-deep in getting their two boys ready for the beginning of the school year. So she stayed home.

Brent had Raya all decked out, wearing a pack containing several essentials. Over the years he had worked with her and he knew he could rely on her to follow him closely. On this day, they followed their usual pattern – hiking around and then looking for a place to camp for the night if they hadn’t found their elk just yet. For some reason, though, Brent decided that he’d just as soon go home as the day began to wane and began walking back to the truck to head back home.

Suddenly, Brent and Trudy found themselves between a mother bear and her cub. They started to back up, but the bear charged. Raya immediately ran out in front of the bear, trying to ward it off. The bear charged again and again. Finally, Brent and Trudy were able to make their way to the truck. They both claim that, if not for Raya’s heroic actions, they would not be alive today. Raya risked her life to save theirs.

Good dog, Raya.

3. Lonca

Lonca is the K9 partner of police constable Steve Balice. But to Steve, Lonca is much more than just a partner. He’s a friend, and a hero.

In late November of 2015, the police department in Toronto, Canada, received a report of criminal activity in a residence. The ETF (Emergency Task Force) was dispatched and Steve and Lorca were positioned at the back entrance of the residence with instructions to prevent suspects from leaving.

The front door was breached and Steve saw a man fleeing the building. The man appeared to be armed and he was headed toward the police officers who were in the front. Steve shouted at the suspect to stop or he would release his dog, but the suspect kept on running. Believing that a deadly confrontation could ensue Steve unleashed Lorca who pursued the man, grabbed his leg, and took him down. The suspect still refused to surrender and began to hit Lorca.

You can probably only begin to imagine the horror that Steve felt when he saw that the suspect wasn’t just using his fists – he was hitting Lorca with a machete. In spite of being injured, Lorca kept his body between the assailant and his partners. Finally, thanks to Lorca’s efforts and Steve’s persistent demands to surrender, the suspect dropped the knife and was arrested.

Then, Lorca kept on doing his job. With blood streaming out of his wounds, he led Steve to the back door of the residence where they found a second suspect. Lorca began to bark at her, preventing her from running. She surrendered. Steve rushed Lorca to the animal hospital where he received stitches for his wounds.

Without Lorca, the situation could have been much worse for both police officers and suspects. The suspect was charged under “Quanto’s Law,” which was named after a police dog who was stabbed to death by a suspect. This is a new law that ensures that anyone who harms a police dog during the commission of a crime is held accountable to the same extent as if they injured any other police officer.

In 2014, Quanto was given his place in the Purina Animal Hall of Fame. Lorca’s induction in 2016 reflects a happier outcome – Lorca has lived to be honored appropriately.

Good dog, Lorca. And Quanto.

4. Shadow

We have all heard of dogs that assist with medical issues and emergencies. Finally, one has been appropriately honored with induction into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame. Shadow is a seizure response dog owned by Kayla Aolick of Port Alberni, British Columbia. Kayla has epilepsy as the result of brain cancer and her doctor advised her to get a seizure response dog. The Lions Foundation of Canada matched her with Shadow and the experience has been life-changing for Kayla.

Kayla says that Shadow is her best frien, and that he has given her back her independence, allowing her to meet challenges and overcome obstacles in a way that she never thought possible. She says that she knows that she is always safe with Shadow and the Purina Animal Hall of Fame agrees.

Good dog, Shadow.

5. Rex

Rex is a rescue dog who gave back in a huge way. Just before Christmas in 2015, Noreen Lucas was getting ready to celebrate with her son, Mitch, and his wife, Santana, and Noreen’s three grandchildren. And of course Rex, the German Shepherd/Malamute mix that Noreen rescued from an animal shelter eight years previously.

As bad luck would have it, Noreen contracted pneumonia, so she decided to take it easy on Christmas Eve while Mitch and the kids drove home. She took a sleeping pill and was soon “lights out” on the couch.

Noreen woke to hear Rex barking, but didn’t think much of it even though Rex wasn’t exactly a habitual barker. She drifted off back to sleep and slept so heavily that she didn’t even hear the smoke alarm go off. Rex kept on barking and grabbed at her pant leg. Finally, he actually managed to pull Noreen off the couch and drag her in the direction of the front door. She finally woke up and got out of the house with Rex’s assistance.

By the time firefighters reached the site, the house was fully aflame, but thanks to Rex, Noreen was safe. Noreen says that she owes her life to Rex and you know what? She does.

Good dog, Rex.

Giving Heroes Recognition

I didn’t know about any of these dogs until Kelli told me about them. And I’ll tell you, quite honestly, that sometimes when I hear stories about hero dogs I take them with a grain of salt. Like, “Dog saves family from fire by barking”? Well, okay, dogs aren’t stupid and I suspect that a lot of the time this is something along the lines of, “Hey, humans, the house is on fire; save the dog; dog doesn’t want to burn!”  Insisting that someone go upstairs to check on a guy who’s having a heart attack or fighting off a bear to save your humans though? Well, that kind of kicks it up another notch. And as to the burning house, dragging your human out at the expense of your own safety – well, all I can say is that if I were a dog, I’d think twice about doing that.

These dogs are indisputably heroes, going well beyond the call of duty to save the humans that they love. They deserve their induction into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame and every single medal that we can bestow upon them. They deserve our admiration and our respect. They deserve to be respected and admired. I love the idea of an Animal Hall of Fame and I’m so grateful to Kelli for letting me know that one actually exists!

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I think these stories prove what I’ve often suspected – in cases of hardship, humans may help you and often do. I have great respect for police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other first responders as well as everyday Good Samaritans. But, I will always have unequivocal, complete admiration for those among us who have nothing to gain and everything to lose by virtue of totally selfless acts that are based out of pure, simple love – dogs. They love us, and they are willing to die for us. And all they want in return is two simple words – “Good dog.”