Dogs are amazing. They’re intelligent and loving, brave and helpful.
Some breeds are bred specifically for carrying out various tasks. German Shepherds and Labradors, for instance, are mostly trained as service dogs or police and military dogs. They help the disabled with daily tasks, military members with locating weapons, and the police as they search for drugs or contraband.
Some dogs though, like the Maremma Sheepdog, are used by ranchers to protect their sheep herds. Maremmas have been used for generations to guard these gentle animals.
Earlier this year, Canada’s western province of British Columbia experienced wildfires that went on record as the worst in the country’s history. Approximately 1,100 fires destroyed one million hectares (nearly 2.5 million acres) at the cost of C$377 million ($295 million US dollars). Over 45,000 people were forced to evacuate.
Lyn Landry was one of those ranchers forced to abandon her land, sheep, and the dogs responsible for guarding them. Outside the town of 100 Mile House, the situation was dire – the province declared a state of emergency on July 7.
Lyn observed the plume of smoke over the horizon on July 6. As nightfall approached, she knew matters would only worsen. She was forced to leave that very night.
“During the day, they had bombers [dousing the fire with water], and when it got dark, they stopped. And then the whole ridge from our place just went up in flames,” she recalled.
It tore Lyn apart to leave the animals she loves, but she knew if the dogs survived, so too would the sheep, because the sheepdogs, Tad and Sophie, wouldn’t leave their charges.
“There was nothing we could do,” she said. “We had to leave.”
Lyn left the dogs what she could. She hoped they could survive on a 35lb bag of dog food.
Lyn and her family couldn’t go home for 20 days. On their return, devastation greeted them. Their neighbor’s homes were completely burned to the ground. Overhead, helicopters still doused small fires.
But when they neared their property, who sat calmly in the field with their charges surrounding them? Tad and Sophie.
“They protected them from wildfires, but also from bears and coyotes,” Lyn said. “The sheep would never have survived without them.”
In the end, they only lost one ewe out of the herd of 90. Lyn said she was an older sheep who wasn’t able to survive the horrific conditions.
The heroes of the day, Sophie and Tad, were clingy once their owners returned, but who could blame them? The family made sure to reward their courageous and life-saving efforts.
“We’ve given them steak. And a good pat!” Lyn said.
Since the wildfires, the two sheepdogs have gained international fame. Their bravery has captured the hearts of people around the world, but Lyn says the two haven’t let it go to their heads.
It would be horrible to have to leave any animals behind in an emergency, but sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t give much of a choice. Landowners have to depart quickly, only grabbing the barest essentials. It’s incredible to have such faith in your dogs as the Landrys do. They trusted Tad and Sophie would guard the sheep with their lives, and they did!
Do you agree Sophie and Tad are heroes? Help us share their story!