PORT HOPE, ONTARIO
Skylar, a three-year-old, golden retriever from Port Hope, Ontario, exemplifies all of the well-known characteristics of his breed – a sweet, energetic and caring companion to his owner Grace Goheen, 74.
On a cold December afternoon in 2015, Grace set out for a walk with Skylar in a secluded wooded valley located two and a half kilometers from their home. Like any dog, Skylar loves to explore the great outdoors, so on this particular day, Grace extended his leash to 20 feet as they meandered through the valley. After wandering for some time, Skylar smelled something intriguing and ran ahead. As Skylar set off to investigate, Grace slipped and fell on the hard ground, breaking her hip.
In excruciating pain, and despite numerous efforts, Grace could not get back on her feet. Since she had no cell phone to call for help, she attempted the journey back home by pulling her body backwards using her arms and her good leg. However, still a great distance from home, she realized the enormity of her situation and that it would be impossible for her get there on her own. After an hour passed and through sheer exhaustion, Grace gave up and began to cry out of pain, desperation and fear of what might happen if they weren’t found soon. It was getting dark and having previously heard the howls of bears and coyotes in the area, she was petrified of the dangerous wildlife that roamed there at night.
A short time later, Grace decided to unleash Skylar, but based on their incredibly close bond he wouldn’t leave her side. She then began to yell for help in hopes that someone would hear her, but also knew full well that no one usually came to the area this time of year. Her clothes were now completely drenched through to her skin from the melted snow and to make matters worse, a cold rain started to fall. With little hope of being rescued, Grace lay on the ground, shivering profusely and overcome with emotion.
Finally, two bright headlights appeared in the distance and, much to Grace’s relief, it was her neighbour, Mike who was driving nearby. Grace urgently prompted Skylar to, “go find Mike!” but to her confusion, he ran in the opposite direction of the headlights. It soon became clear that Skylar was in fact thinking ahead and wanted a signal to help alert Mike of the situation. Skylar ran back to the spot where Grace had dropped her mittens hours prior, picked one up in his mouth and ran back towards the headlights.
Stopping his truck, Mike looked over to see Skylar running towards him. Concerned about why the dog was all alone, he noticed Skylar holding a mitten in his mouth. Based on this, Mike understood Skylar was trying to tell him something. So he got out of his truck and followed Skylar into the bush – where he eventually discovered Grace lying injured on the ground and shaking from the cold. Amazed by how Skylar guided him there, Mike immediately covered Grace with his jacket and called the paramedics. Grace was taken to the hospital, treated for hypothermia and admitted to surgery to fix her hip.
Over a year later, Grace has now fully recovered from the accident – but never forgets how close she came to losing her life. A local police officer felt compelled to recognize Skylar for his heroism – nominating him as a Purina Animal Hall of Fame inductee. After all, it was thanks to Skylar’s intelligence, quick thinking and resourcefulness that led to Grace’s survival in what could have been a fatal night in the snowy wilderness.