Kenai, a Bernese mountain Hero dog mix was named “Dog of Valor” by the Humane Society of the United States‘for alerting her family to a potentially deadly carbon monoxide leak.
This hero dog, who lives with her family in Erie, Colo., beat out nine other finalists for the national honor. The award recognizes dogs that exhibit “an extraordinary sense of courage or resolve by heroically helping persons in need,” according to the HSUS.
Last winter, 14-year-old Kenai seemed more tired than usual after a day outdoors with her family in the mountains of Colorado’s Western Slope. Kenai’s owner, Todd Smarr, tells Paw Nation he thought she might have played too hard in the snow. But later that evening, after Smarr and his wife, Michelle, had settled down for the night in the basement of the vacation house they were renting with friends, Kenai began to whine and bark.
As Smarr tried to comfort Kenai, his friend Karen Hull who was also staying in the vacation home, got up and announced she was feeling ill. Smarr woke his wife Michelle to help, and moments later she collapsed in his arms. Smarr rushed to wake the rest of their friends and evacuate the house. The seven adults, two children and four dogs all escaped serious injury, although Michelle and Karen both required treatment in a hyperbaric chamber after being airlifted to a Denver hospital. They later learned the source of the carbon monoxide leak was the vacation home’s oven.
Without the early warning from Kenai, Todd doubts that any of the house’s inhabitants would have survived the night. Kenai is taking her newfound celebrity in stride. In addition to wining the “Dog of Valor” award, she was honored by the American Humane Association and the Colorado Veterinary Medical Foundation.
“She’s the same compassionate and loving hero dog as always,” says Smarr, who is using the experience to remind people of the importance of installing carbon monoxide detectors.
The HSUS competition also included online voting for a “People’s Hero” winner, which was given to Calamity Jane of Aledo, Texas. Still recovering from having a front leg amputated and giving birth to a litter of seven puppies, Calamity Jane managed to scare off home intruders who had taken the residents of a neighboring home hostage at gunpoint. Calamity Jane was also chosen as the first runner up for the national title by the panel of celebrity judges.
The other national “Dogs of Valor” finalists were:
Benson (Binghamton, N.Y.): The 5-year-old rescued golden retriever alerted his family to a house fire across the street, giving his owners time to wake their neighbors and save them from the flames.
Jackson (Rahway, N.J.): When a 90-year-old neighbor was trapped under a fallen door, the 8-month-old Doberman summoned his owner to help.
Jobe (Omaha, Neb.): After his family’s 19-year-old son suffered a severe allergic reaction, the 8-year-old Hungarian Vizsla barked and howled outside the parents’ bedroom door. They managed to get their son to the emergency room in time.
Max (Little Neck, N.Y.): The yellow Labrador retriever barked, circled and even jumped on a fence to tell his owners that their neighbor’s 89-year-old mother had collapsed in the garden, breaking four ribs and unable to call out for help. She invited Max to her 90th birthday party.
Milky Way (Rushford, Minn.): His owner had already gone to bed for the night when her sister suffered a stroke and collapsed in another room of the home. The 5-year-old hero dog terrier corgi mix sounded the alarm by barking and scratching at his owner’s bedroom door until she woke and summoned help.
Porkchop (Saratoga Spring, N.Y.): This 9-year-old beagle-dachshund mix barked and bayed when his owner collapsed in the backyard, dislodging the oxygen tube he relied on to breathe due to a serious respiratory illness. Porkchop was loud enough to draw attention from a neighbor, who came to investigate and called 911.
Prozac (Sanford, N.C.): A double hero, the 3-year-old Bichon frise-poodle mix warned a family when an elderly relative began having trouble breathing, and later alerted the family to a fire in the attic.
RaeLee (Tampa, Fla.): The terrier mix’s owner was outdoors watering her plants when her hero dog’s insistent barking drew her inside. The dog raced to the side of her disabled son, who had suffered a life-threatening seizure. The owner was able to start CPR until help arrived, saving the young man’s life.
There were nearly 100 entries for this year’s competition, demonstrating “an incredible level of unspoken communication and loyalty between dogs and their families,” HSUS innovations director Colin Berry tells Paw Nation. “All of the canine nominees acted not out of the self preservation, but rather for the purpose of saving those they love. We also had a respectable number of nominees who moved beyond their family and helped spare the lives of friends, neighbors and even strangers. That type of awareness is extraordinary.”