They are known as man's best friends. But sometimes they're more than just that - they can be lifesavers, as well.
Meet the latest additions to the Purina Hall of Fame, two of whom come from right here in southern Ontario. One of them is a dog involved in an incident that made headlines around the world. The other is a cat you haven't met until now.
His name is Nemo and he lives with Angela and Peter Papadimitriou in Toronto. One morning last September, the feline started acting oddly, hopping up on the couple's bed, making all kinds of racket, swatting Angela with his paw and waking her up from a sound sleep.
The 21-lbs. animal had never done that before and Angela turned to her husband to ask what he thought was wrong with the cat. But he didn't answer. It turns out Peter had stopped breathing and didn't have a pulse.
Nemo and Angie
She immediately called 911 and paramedics were able to revive her husband - a rescue that might not have been possible had Nemo not instinctively known to alert her owner to summon help.
And then there's Ace (top left), a Dutch-Shepherd mix, who was adopted by a member of Hamilton Police's Volunteer Search and Rescue team. Ray Lau managed to train the animal and on his very first mission, Ace became an internationally known lifesaver.
You may remember hearing the story of how he did it. It was December 22, 2008, and Donna Molnar of Ancaster, Ontario has been missing following one of this winter's massive snowstorms. Her family feared the worst until Lau and Ace went on the case.
Three hours into a last ditch search, the animal charged off at full speed, heading 75 metres into a field filled with flakes. He managed to sniff her out, despite the fact she'd been buried in a snow bank for three long days.
Incredibly, she was still alive and owes her discovery and survival to an amazing dog with an amazing nose and a determination not to give up.
"This was his first rescue mission," Lau marvels. "We train a thousand hours a year ... and obviously that search, it paid off a thousand times over ... I'm in awe of what he does sometimes. We train together so much and he teaches me."
Lau admits he rescued the dog and the pup paid him back by rescuing someone else.
Another brave pooch, Jarod, did his thing in Genelle, B.C., when a black bear went after a family's other pet, a 12-year-old Chow Chow named Meesha.
The owner ran out of the house to rescue the animal and Jarod, an 8-year-old of the same breed, slipped out after her.
Jarod and best friend
He attacked the bruin and then distracted it by running behind the garage. The huge animal followed and the owner and the older dog made it back inside safely. Jarod eventually joined them when he lost the bear and came back to the security of the home.
The final hero honoured was in Olds, Alberta, and involved a one-and-a-half year old Biscon Frise named Sophie, who managed to wake up her owner and force her into her daughter's room, where she discovered the girl had slipped into a diabetic coma. Paramedics managed to stabilize her and she's since recovered.
The Purina Hall of Fame is an annual event honouring animal heroes who have shown an amazing tendency to sense when a family member or a person is in trouble and somehow alert others to the danger.
In the past 41 years, 117 dogs, 24 cats and a single horse have been honoured for their smarts, bravery and actions above and beyond the call of their species.
CityNews.ca - Toronto's News: Amazing Lifesaving Animal Heroes Honoured In Toronto