REDMOND, Ore. - If it's true that, as the movie title said, "all dogs go to heaven," a Redmond man's German shorthaired pointer named Hunter had an express pass when he passed away recently -- just a week before he was to be inducted into the Oregon Animal Hall of Fame for helping save the life of his owner's girlfriend.
Scott Tate, who's had dogs all his life, says he had to be convinced by a veterinarian and his friends to seek the honor – and only did so, so long as the focus and the honor was Hunter's, not his.
Each year, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association and the Oregon Animal Health Foundation honor animals who, through unselfish and courageous accomplishments, exemplify the affection, loyalty, security, public service and value of the human-animal bond, the organizations said.
The Oregon Animal Hall of Fame™ is the second-longest running awards program among veterinary organizations in the country. Since the program was started in 1988, the OVMA and the OAHF have recognized dogs, cats, an animal welfare group, a horse therapy group, horses -- and one llama.
The worthy animals were inducted into the Oregon Animal Hall of Fame™ during the Oregon Veterinary Conference, the OVMA's annual meeting and educational conference, in Corvallis on March 9.
Here's the award nomination from Dr. Karen Laidley of Cinder Rock Veterinary Clinic in Redmond:
Hunter was but a puppy when Scott Tate brought the German Shorthaired Pointer into his home in 2005.
From the outset of their lives together, Scott noticed Hunter's joy and love for everyone the he came in contact with. And as Hunter developed and started to mature, he had an uncanny knack for recognizing when someone was down or needed a little extra attention and love.
By the time Hunter was three years old, his nightly ritual was to curl up next to Scott's bed and spend the night on the floor next to his owner. Scott has always been a deep sleeper but, one night, Hunter, in an attempt to awaken Scott, pulled him with such force that he nearly pulled him out of the bed.
Hunter was shaking uncontrollably and whining, and would not leave Scott alone. Frustrated with his dog's behavior, Scott turned on a bedside lamp and saw his girlfriend, Jamie, in the throes of a grand mal seizure. Scott immediately dialed 911, while Hunter jumped onto the bed and lay by Jamie's side.
When Jamie's seizure subsided, Scott realized that she was not breathing and started to perform CPR on her. As he recalls that night, he also clearly remembers that Hunter never left Jamie's side – not when she began and continued to convulse, and not when Scott began resuscitating his girlfriend. Even when Jamie's seizure caused her to bang hard into Hunter, the dog didn't flinch and remained next to her. Hunter kept Jamie from falling off the bed.
When the paramedics arrived, Scott led them into the bedroom, where Hunter was emitting loud whines and licking Jamie's face. According to Scott, she had stopped breathing for a second time.
The paramedics stabilized Jamie, and it was later determined that she had epilepsy.
Without Hunter's persistence and determination to awaken Scott, it is possible that Jamie could have died. While Scott and the paramedics were able to medically assist Jamie, in Scott's eyes, Hunter is the real hero.
Sadly, Hunter was euthanized two weeks ago after a diagnosis of advanced hemangiosarcoma (a fast-growing form of cancer).
"They'd say, ‘Celebrate this,' and I'd say, ‘Come on – he can't read.' It's important to focus on Hunter – it's not about me. The most important thing is to celebrate the achievement or recognize his effort," Tate, 43, said Saturday night. "Though I may have done the CPR on Jamie, the recognition was his to take."
Tate said he and Jamie, who has moved on and married, have remained "really good friends," and agreed Hunter deserved the special honor, "to celebrate Hunter." And so, just last fall, Tate told Laidley what had happened back in 2008, setting the events in motion.
The timing -- a sudden illness, and a surgery that tried to save him -- made the honor's timing very bittersweet.
"It was very rough" to lose Hunter, he said. "It was very hard that he died a week before (the award was to be given). It wasn't a question of finances. They (the veterinarian and staff) took care of doing everything they could to save Hunter's life."
In his grief, Tate did not attend what an OVMA spokeswoman said nevertheless was a "very touching ceremony" last weekend. And now he's decided the award should be displayed at Cinder Rock Vet Clinic, where, like so many vet clinics, so many beloved pets' are cared for and lives are saved – that is, when they can be.
Tate explained why the vet clinic was the right place for the honor given to the special dog that slept and stayed beside him from the day he brought him home as a puppy.
"I guess what I want people to understand is, when you go to the vet with a family pet, you're faced sometimes with some awful tough choices," he said. "I would hate to think – I have the resources, but that somebody would say, ‘Put my dog down because I can't afford (the treatment).' Money should never be an obstacle to saving something's life."
"The second thing is just for people to say, ‘My dog is important to me.' Really take a look at the dog in their house," he said. "When you've had a rough day at work, you get home and your dog drops a tennis ball at your feet to play – that act right there is enough. I think it's really important. A man's best friend – there's a reason they are called that."
If Hunter heard someone come in the door of their home, he'd bring them a new toy, to show and to share, Tate said.
Replacing him – that's not possible, even if… make that when he gets another.
Hunter was one of a kind, well before and long after that fateful night.
"He was a good dog," Tate said. "In all the years I've had dogs, I've never had one like him."