It’s time we stopped referring to dogs as “man’s best friend,” because dogs repeatedly prove that they’re everyone’s best friend. Dogs jump at the opportunity to help others, even if it means putting themselves in danger. Between 2019 and 2020, a dog named Bear won hearts around the world for doing exactly that in the wake of Australia’s devastating bushfires.
Between 2019-2020, an estimated 72,000 square miles of Australia burned in the catastrophic bushfires. Buildings and homes were destroyed, and wildlife habitats were reduced to ash. Tragically, countless animals died in the fires, with some endangered species now believed to be extinct.
Wildlife organizations including IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) stepped in, attempting to preserve whatever they could. While drones and thermal cameras assisted rescuers as they searched for injured koalas, one helper with a very particular set of skills located more than 100 koalas who otherwise wouldn’t have survived. That helper was 6-year-old Bear, an eager Australian Koolie dog trained for wildlife tracking.
“We give Bear his favorite command ‘Let’s go find!’ and he is off and running,” IFAW’s website explains. “As Bear begins to smell fresh scats and urine, he knows he’s on track. He will drop to the ground to tell us ‘follow me.’”
Before the 2019-2020 bushfires, Bear was struggling to find his place in the world. The rescue pup’s excessive energy and obsessive habits made it difficult for him to find a home, but the very traits that made him difficult to adopt out made him an overachiever in the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Detection Dogs for Conservation Team.
By the end of Australia’s devastating bushfire season, Bear had led rescuers to over 100 koalas who desperately needed help. On October 12, Bear received an award for his efforts at the Animal Action Awards.
“We think Bear really deserved this award because he’s been such a good boy in helping us find and rescue a lot of koalas, especially during the bushfires, but he works throughout the year to help us in our job to make a better and safer place for koalas,” Bear’s handler, Dr. Romane Cristescu of the University of the Sunshine Coast, said in a statement. “We’ll give Bear extra pats and extra play for his award.”