Honoring Heroic Dogs At The 2016 AHOF Awards

At Talent Hounds, we love celebrating dogs making a difference, both in our TV series and online. Today we had the great pleasure of meeting the latest Heroes being inducted into the 48th Annual Purina Hall of Fame at Toronto’s Purina PawsWay . Purina honored tremendous acts of canine bravery and the power of the human-animal bond in a wonderful ceremony. Lucky they gave out tissues as the room was full of tears and smiles as the stories of these amazing dogs were shared.

4 Hero Dog AHOF photo portraits

Five new dogs, including loyal family dogs, a service dog and a police dog were inducted into the hall of fame today.  They were honored for the extraordinary actions they took to protect a human life – demonstrating the unique bond that exists between animals and people.

Enjoy our gallery and all the highlights from the event.

Honoring Heroic Dogs At The 2016 AHOF Awards

2016 Animal Hall Of Fame Inductees


From the moment Brent Cote met Raya, a black Labrador Retriever Norwegian Elkhound cross puppy, he knew she was destined to be his companion. Raya was adopted as a hunting companion but quickly bonded with the whole family. They soon discovered what she lacked in manners and training in those early days, she made up for in loyalty and dedication.

Raya and family at AHOF

In September 2015, Brent was keen to go elk hunting with Raya and decided to call his mom Trudy to join him. On this particular day, they hiked around for several hours but as dusk set in, they decided to head home. They walked back along the forest cut line towards their truck. Suddenly about 20 feet in front of them, the bush exploded and a sow bear came charging at them, determined to protect her young cub beside her at any cost. They could see her eyes glowing in the dark and hear the branches breaking and her huffing and clacking teeth.

Raya is trained to follow behind Brent on hikes, but she shot out in front of him barking and snapping at the bear in a way Brent had never heard or seen before. Raya stopped the bear in her tracks briefly and Brent and Trudy were able to move back a few paces very slowly . The bear charged twice more before retreating slightly and Raya defended them fearlessly.  Brent, Trudy and Raya were eventually able to get back to the truck against all odds.

Raya and family at AHOF

Once safely inside, Trudy and Brent had a chance to fully absorb just how life-threatening this encounter was and recognize Raya’s heroic and selfless actions. There is no doubt in their minds that Raya put her life at risk that day to save theirs.

Raya and family at AHOF


Zola, a good-natured and lovable 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 from his daughter decided to give in.

Zola with family at AHOF

At 11:40 p.m., a few weeks before Christmas 2014, Matthew returned from a 2 hour bike ride complaining to Patricia of pain in his shoulder and elbow. He went upstairs to change and cool down while Patricia and Zola stayed downstairs in front of the fire. Suddenly and without warning his heart stopped and with it, all his vital functions. Matthew fell to the floor, and was clinically dead. Two floors below, Patricia heard a loud thump but assumed some books had fallen and did not get up.


Zola, normally a quiet dog, jumped to her feet and began growling, and barking at Patricia – aggressively trying to rouse and almost herd 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.

Zola and Matt at AHOF

When Patricia and Zola finally reached the top of the stairs they found Matthew lying behind a chair on the floor, 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 open heart surgery on a 100% blocked artery.

Zola and Matt AHOF

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”.


Rex, a loyal and protective Alaskan Malamute German Shephard cross, joined the Hawman family as a puppy when he was just eight-months-old.

Mitch and his wife Santana rescued him from a local shelter. Eight years later this devoted pup returned the favour.

Rex at AHOF

It was December 2015 and the Hawman family was preparing for the holidays at their home in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan.  Mitch’s mother Noreen Lucas traveled from Edmonton to be with them. Unfortunately she came down with pneumonia and on Christmas Eve, she decided to stay home and rest up while Mitch drove into Saskatoon for a holiday dinner with his wife, kids and extended family. To help ensure she felt better and rested for Christmas Day, Noreen took a sleeping pill and fell asleep on the couch.  She was in a heavy sleep when she awoke briefly to hear Rex barking.

Rex and family at AHOF

Noreen was in such a deep sleep, she did not wake up to the home’s two smoke and carbon monoxide detector alarms. Determined to wake Noreen up, Rex continued to bark and nudge her – tugging at her pant leg. In a desperate effort to save her, Rex eventually managed to gather enough strength to latch on to Noreen’s leg, pull her off the couch and drag her across the room towards the front door, before she finally woke up. Noreen opened her eyes and to her shock, she saw intense bright flames and smoke quickly spreading down the hallway in front of her. The house was on fire. As quickly as she could, Noreen got to her feet, grabbed what she could including 2 other pets, and with Rex’s help was able to escape the burning home.

Rex with the family at AHOF

Mitch and his family were already heading back to Aberdeen from dinner, when he received a frantic phone call from Noreen alerting him to the fire, and telling him she was safe thanks to Rex. 911 was called but by the time fire fighters arrived there was nothing that could be done to stop the fire. It had completely engulfed the house.

Today Noreen and her whole family feel completely indebted to Rex for her life – if it wasn’t for him, this grandmother would not have woken in time that fateful Christmas Eve. They would have lost her along with their home.

Police Dog Lonca

People say, “a dog is a man’s best friend”, but to Police Constable Steve Balice his K9 partner, Lonca, is much more. 

Lonca, a two-year-old German Shepherd, is a relatively new addition to the Toronto Police Service Canine Unit. Despite his youth, Lonca has distinguished himself as a highly determined and brave police dog, qualities that helped him, without hesitation or regard for his own well-being, protect a community, his fellow officers and his partner, one fateful night.

Late in the evening on November 23, 2015, the Toronto Police Service executed a search warrant at a residential address. While the Emergency Task Force (ETF) prepared to enter the front of the building, Lonca and Steve were stationed at the rear of the premises, to prevent any suspects from fleeing.

Steve and Lonka at AHOF

As the ETF breached the front door, Steve was heading towards the back door and saw a man run towards the front of the building, armed with what appeared to be a weapon. Steve warned the suspect to stop or he would release his police dog. Despite Steve’s numerous warnings, the man continued running. Concluding that both the unsuspecting officers at the front and the suspect would be in grave danger if a confrontation occurred, Steve deployed Lonca. Lonca ran after the man, grabbed hold of his leg and brought him to the ground. Still the suspect refused to surrender and began to violently strike Lonca. As Steve caught up to them, he was faced with a sight that no K9 team would ever want to see – the man was hitting Lonca with a large machete.

Lonca was struck many times in the head, neck and body, but despite his injuries, he remained focused and on-task. In the ensuing struggle, Lonca positioned himself between the suspect and the officers, preventing anyone from being harmed.  The suspect finally surrendered.

Steve and Lonka at AHOF

Displaying focus beyond his years, Lonca refused to rest until he knew his job was done. Blood streaming from his mouth, he led Steve back to the rear of the premises. There, they encountered a second suspect, a female, who had fled the building and was struggling with the ETF officers. Lonca began to bark at the suspect, deterring her from running and contributed to her eventual surrender. With the situation under control, Steve rushed Lonca to the emergency veterinary hospital to tend to his injuries. Lonca received five stitches to his face and two staples to his front left paw. Lonca’s bravery and determination, even in the face of danger, contributed to the safe resolution of the situation for officers, neighbours and suspects alike.

Steve and Lonka at AHOF

The suspect who attacked Lonca is the first in Canada to be charged under Quanto’s Law, which came into effect in July 2015.This new legislation serves to better protect law enforcement animals, military animals and service animals, and ensure that offenders who harm those animals are held fully accountable. Quanto’s Law was named after the Edmonton police dog that was stabbed to death while chasing down a suspect in a parking lot. Quanto was inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame in 2014.

First Annual Purina Better Together Award

Purina Pawsway Better Together Award

Purina knows that life is better for both People and Pets when they are together.  This new award category recognizes the everyday hero. There are so many situations where a pet makes such a significant impact on the lives it touches that deserve to be celebrated: a companion for the elderly who may have no one else; a friend to keep our spirits up when we’re sick or recovering from grief or shock; the tie that binds a family together during times of trouble…the possibilities are endless.


Shadow at AHOF

Today Service Dog Shadow and Kayla were the first recipients of this award after Canadians across the country voted. Kayla shared how Shadow, a Dog Guide from Lions Foundation of Canada (which Purina supports), has given her back her life. The independence, confidence, companionship, and love Shadow gives to Kayla is truly touching. What an amazing well-deserved award to be added to this year’s reception. We are so impressed with the work by Dog Guides Canada and National Service Dogs Canada. Their dogs really make a difference.

Kayla and Shadow at AHOF

Do you know a deserving everyday Hero Pet? From now until June 30th Canadians can share their stories with Purina to be considered for the 2017 Award.

We are also researching stories across north America for our next documentary series “Dogs Make A Difference” so share them below in comments, by e-mail or on our Facebook Page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *