Three dogs have been awarded Britain’s top honor for civilian animal bravery.
Frodo the beagle is playful, “naughty” and likes jumping out of windows. Anya the German shepherd is exuberant and friendly. And Oi the pit bull was loyal and devoted to the end.
At the ceremony, led by Princess Alexandra at the Tower of London, Frodo and Anya stood together. Sadly, Oi passed away before being able to receive his medal in person.
Saved Her Family from a Fire
Frodo’s moment of courage began at about 2 a.m. one Friday, when a fire started in the kitchen of the Barwise home.
Jenny Barwise and her parents, David and Annette, were asleep in their bedrooms downstairs in St. Bees in the north of England. Jenny’s fiancé, Liam, was snoozing on the sofa in the sitting room upstairs after a few pints to celebrate winning a football tournament. It was Frodo who smelled the smoke.
“The smoke alarm was broken,” said 23-year-old Jenny. “So he started running in and out of my parents’ bedroom and barking until they woke up. Then he woke me up, whining and pawing at my bedroom door, and running up and down the stairs barking and yelping like a maniac. He knew we were all in danger, but particularly Liam.”
Then, the roof caught fire and flames started shooting out of the upstairs windows.
“We were all shouting and yelling,” said Jenny. Dad couldn’t get beyond the fifth step from the top before he was beaten back by thick black clouds of smoke and heat that singed all the hair on his arms and eyebrows. That was when Frodo came to the rescue again, hurtling up the stairs, along the smoke-filled hallway, into the sitting room and straight to Liam’s chest, nudging him in the arm with his nose and barking in his face.
Liam staggered groggily to his feet in a room full of dense, black smoke. He was almost blinded by the smoke, but Frodo led him across the hall, down the stairs and out of the burning house to a desperate Jenny.
“He was black and singed and spluttering for breath, and poor Frodo was black nose to tail,” said Jenny.
Minutes later, the ceiling above the sofa collapsed and burning debris rained on the exact spot where Liam had been sleeping.
Saved Her Buddy from a Criminal
“She’s always enthusiastic, never downcast, and just fantastic,” says Police Constable Neil Sampson. Anya is also a lifesaver. When Neil was up against a criminal wielding a six-inch knife, Anya threw herself between him and the criminal. She took the hit and was stabbed deep in the chest, narrowly missing her vital organs. But she wouldn’t give in, coming back for more to protect her buddy as knife blows rained down on them both.
“She launched herself at him,” said Neil. “She hit him head on, bounced off and was back on him in seconds. He was going at her with the knife, but she didn’t care.”
Neil was stabbed four times in the back of the head, as well as being cut across his face and in his leg. He was in hospital for four days.
“I owe her my life,” he said. “When all else was failing, she protected me and she never gave up. I thought I loved Anya before, but now I worship her.”
Neil is a big, burly, 50-year-old. But he goes all soft when it comes to Anya, rolling about on the grass with her, feeding her treats and walking her three times a day.
Saved Her Family from a Gang
The third medal was awarded posthumously to Oi, a pit bull. Oi had leaped to the defense of her person, Patricia Adshead, when a gang of armed raiders, wielding machetes, forced their way into her family home in Thamesmead, London.
But for Oi, it would all have been over very quickly – and with Patricia probably dead. Instead, and despite terrible injuries to her head, Oi forced the gang to flee.
It was a violent and bloody encounter, in which Oi received crashing blows to her head which left part of her brain exposed. One other family member was hurt.
The wounds to Oi’s head were bad enough to expose her brain. Ironically, she recovered from her injuries, but she passed away a few months later from cancer.
The Gold Medal
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Gold Medal for bravery was created in 1991 to honor animals for extraordinary acts of heroism in the civilian arena. (A separate honor, the Dickin Medal, is given to dogs in the military.)
Oi, Tanya and Frodo follow 15 other dogs who’ve been awarded the Gold Medal, including three police explosives dogs who performed life-saving work in the aftermath of the terrorist bombings in London in 2005.
To qualify, the animals (all so far have been dogs) must either have been instrumental in saving human or animal lives when their own lives were in danger, or to have demonstrated an outstanding devotion to duty.