Many people think of their animals as furry kids that are good company and not much more, but some pets land life-saving jobs.
Mary Siemiesz has seen a lot of amazing animals in her 14 years as honorary curator for the Purina Animal Hall of Fame. This year’s service animal inductee was Bingo, a Jack Russell Terrier from Shilo, Man. Bingo is owned by Mandi and Dwayne Hein, whose eight-year-old son Cole has a condition that causes him to retch and often stop breathing. Before Bingo, Mandi and Dwayne had to monitor their son constantly. When Dwayne, a member of the Canadian Forces, was dispatched to Afghanistan, it left Mandi as the lone protector — at least until the National Service Dogs organization hooked her up with Bingo.
Bingo was trained to start barking when Cole starts retching, so life-saving help can come quickly. Bingo is with Cole around the clock, taking a lot of worry off the shoulders of the Heins.
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“Mandi has been very grateful for Bingo,” Siemiesz says. “We feel it’s very important to showcase these stories and celebrate the role pets play in our lives.”
It’s usually a dog who does the life saving, but this year’s inductees included Gepetto, the Alberta cat who alerted his owners to a potentially deadly carbon monoxide leak.
“In many situations, the owners are actually surprised at the behaviour of the pet,” she says. “It almost seems to be that they just know what to do.”
Reba, Creig Veinot’s Czechoslovakian Shepherd (as he describes her) works as a civilian member of an RCMP-run search-and-rescue team in Lunenburg, N.S.
“Everyone wants to know if there’s any relation to Reba McIntyre, but she can’t sing,” Veinot jokes.
“We get a call from the RCMP with the location and a little description of what’s taken place. We pick an area and go from there,” he explains. “If we get into a place where the person has travelled, they track them by scent.”
Veinot used to use bloodhounds, which have a sharper nose, but they are also slow and heavy creatures weighing in at 125 pounds and struggle with rough terrain. Reba is a lean, leaping 61 pounds.
“When we come to a tree across the road, it’s me I’ve got to worry about,” he says. Reba is also the family pet and the Veinots take her with them everywhere ,so they’re ready to spring into action.