FORT ST. JOHN, BRITISH COLUMBIA
From the moment Brent Cote met Raya, a black Labrador Retriever Norwegian Elkhound cross, he knew she was destined to be his companion. Brent was looking for a hunting dog when his wife Amanda came across a posting to adopt a one-year-old puppy. Raya took to the entire the family right away, especially to Brent. They soon discovered what she lacked in manners and training in those early days, she made up for in loyalty and dedication. Little did Brent know at the time, Raya would go above and beyond as his loyal sidekick.
In September 2015, Brent was keen to go elk hunting with now four-year-old Raya and decided to call his mom Trudy to join him. Amanda typically would go with Brent but needed to stay home to help their two young boys get ready for the start of the school year. Trudy was happy to join her son on this excursion as she loves the outdoors and walking. Over the years, Brent had trained Raya who quickly became a worthy companion on their outdoor adventures – she wears her pack carrying all of their essentials, follows right behind Brent and never strays off. On this particular day, they hiked around for several hours but as dusk set in, decided to head home and walk back along the forest cutline to return to their truck. When suddenly about 20 feet in front of them, the bush exploded and a sow bear came charging at them, huffing and clacking her teeth, to protect her young cub, at any cost. Just as quickly, Raya ran out in front of Brent (something she is trained not to do when hiking with her pack) barking and snapping at the bear in a way Brent had never heard or seen before. Raya stopped the bear in her tracks and she retreated. As Brent and Trudy started to back up, Raya stayed out in front but they were all still too close in proximity to the bear. Still feeling threatened, the bear charged for a second and then a third time, leaving Brent and Trudy fearful that this nightmare would not end well. Raya continued to keep the bear at bay. The bear, along with her cub, eventually retreated enough to allow Brent, Trudy and Raya time to get back to the truck.
Once safely inside, Trudy and Brent had a chance to fully absorb just how life-threatening this encounter was and recognize Raya’s heroic and selfless actions. There is no doubt in their minds that Raya ultimately put her life at risk that day to save theirs.