11 year old Shelti honoured with a 2016 Canine Hero Award

11 year old Shelti honoured with a 2016 Canine Hero Award

Charlene Mead and her Shelti, Brook proudly show their Canine Hero Award

by Cathy Beer

Charlene Meade lives independently with two dogs and a cat. I had the privilege of meeting Charlene and her two Sheltis: 11 year old Brook and four year old Piper, and…Puss the cat.  Over a cup of tea, Charlene told me about the story behind Brook’s Canine Hero Award.

A couple of years ago, Charlene was stranded in Centennial Park, Sydney when her wheelchair failed. Brook is not trained as an Assistance dog but the faithful Shelti sprung into action to get help.  Brook’s initiative did not go unnoticed.  At the Sydney Royal Easter Show, Brook’s heroic act was honoured with a 2016 Canine Hero Award.  The Award was presented to Charlene and Brook by the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove no less.  This is Charlene’s story.

From ‘herding’ dog to canine hero

My name is Charlene, and since the age of 15, due to a riding accident, I have been a paraplegic. Now 84, I still live independently – but depend heavily on my electric wheelchair to do so, a fact that is very relevant to this story.

I was walking my two Sheltie dogs, Brook and Piper, in Centennial Park.  It was a cool autumn afternoon so the trees were losing their leaves.  It had been raining heavily during the previous days, so the ground was soft underneath the leaf covering.

From long experience, I am generally very cautious in such terrain, but on this day, I misjudged the lie of the land.   Before I knew it, right under a big oak tree, I came to a sudden stop with my chair wheels spinning uselessly on the soggy leaves.

Over the years, I’ve learned that optimism is my friend, so I thought, “Oh, well, it’s not exactly prime park weather, but someone will come along sooner or later to pull me out, so I’ll just have to wait and stay put.”

11 year old Shelti honoured with a 2016 Canine Hero Award

Charlene Meade and Brook receive the Companion Canine Hero Award from Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove. Photo: Jenny Deacon

Piper was on a lead as he was quite young at the time, and still a bit naughty. Brook, who was 10, has learned to bark whenever I shout or call out to people if I’m in a predicament – but on this occasion, she took things quite a few steps further.

When I saw a group of people arrive to sit at a picnic table about 100 metres away,  I waved and called out to them.  And as usual, Brook joined in, barking as I shouted. This went on for 15 minutes or so, with no response from the picnicking people. My optimism was feeling a little shaky!

I don’t know whether Brook sensed this, but at this point, she decided more direct action was needed. So she eyed off the picnickers, very deliberately stopped barking, and marched off towards them. She stood just near the table and kept on barking until one of the men looked up, saw me waving in the distance, and gave me a cheery wave back!! “Oh, dear,” I thought, “that’s not the idea at all!”

However, Brook stood her ground, continued barking, but – and this was a first – also started moving backwards towards me! Eventually, with Brook continuing to bark and back up, and a few more limp ‘come here’ signals from me, the penny finally dropped! Over came the man, who kindly pulled me and my chair to solid ground.

As he so rightly commented,

If it hadn’t been for your clever dog, you might have been stuck here for a very long time.

We made it back to the car just before the rain came down again – just as well, because electric wheelchairs definitely don’t like getting wet.  And Brook got an extra hug that night for rescuing her mum from a soggy night (or worse) in the park!

In March this year, I was told Brook will be awarded the Companion Canine Hero Award and a German Shepherd was to receive the Canine Service Award.  When I was told the Governor General will present the Award at the Sydney Royal Easter Show,  I thought ‘wow’ I have to go!  My next thought was how am I going to get there in the car? Of course, it was no problem at all.  Everyone was very helpful.

The Award ceremony was wonderful, I don’t get a kiss from the Governor-General every day!

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