What do an Australian shepherd cross from Calahoo, a Yorkshire terrier from Ottawa and a golden retriever from Port Hope, Ont., have in common?
All three have been inducted into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame for helping to save their owners’ lives, something that Calahoo’s Tracey Matkea said came as a welcome surprise.
“I would never have dreamed of it, but she’s definitely deserving,” she said of four-year-old Becky-Jo. “It was just so surreal that something good could have come out of such a tragic situation.”
The Australian shepherd/border collie cross lives in Calahoo part of the year and in Arizona for the rest – a “dual citizen” as Matkea said – and it was south of the border that she showed her dedication to her family.
While Matkea was out riding a horse on her property in Wickenburg, Ariz., on Jan. 10, 2016, the retired teacher and active horse-trainer was thrown from her horse and severely injured.
Although she has no recollection of the event, she believes she was dragged half a mile before she became untangled from the horse, which went back to the house and Matkea’s husband Butch saw it.
But with several different routes around the property, he would have not known where to look for her without Becky-Jo’s quick thinking.
“She would have waited with me approximately 10 minutes, and then somehow she made the decision that ‘I can’t help you here, I have to go home,’ ” she said. “And that’s a really high level of thinking.”
Doctors told her husband that if she had lost blood for another 10 minutes, she wouldn’t have survived.
And having owned dogs of various breeds her whole life, Matkea said she thinks Becky-Jo is probably the only one among them that would have been clever enough to know to get help.
“I think my other dogs would have just stayed with me, and let me die,” she said. “Because it was that close.”
The Purina Animal Hall of Fame began recognizing heroism in 1968, and has honoured about 175 animals in that time.
“It’s the only honour for heroic animals across the country in Canada,” Purina spokesperson Frances Manlucu said. “It’s meant to celebrate that bond between animals and humans. What a lot of these stories show is that pets can really enrich your life, and even save your life.”
The award comes with a $5,000 prize to help the family move past the traumatic incident. For Matkea, the best option was to have a family reunion at her Arizona property. It will include her son, his family, and their dog Miss Kay, who Matkea rescued from the same bin at an Arizona feed store where she found Becky-Jo.
She said her son and his family are very pleased to know that Miss Kay carries the same heroic genes and sense of loyalty to her family that saved her life.
“Miss Kay has already exhibited some of that protectiveness,” she said.
For more information about the award or to nominate a heroic pet, visit www.purinahalloffame.ca.