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Not all heroes wear capes; some are just covered in fur.
According to a release from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Bear, the dog who earned admiration during Australia’s 2019-2020 wildfire season for his work saving koalas, recently received a special honor for his marsupial rescue work.
“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. We’ll give Bear extra pats and extra play for his award,” Bear’s handler, Dr. Romane Cristescu of the University of the Sunshine Coast, said in a statement.
Not long before Australia’s “Black Summer” of devastating bushfires, Bear didn’t have a job and was struggling to find a home. The rescue pup had trouble fitting in with a forever family because of “his boundless energy and obsessive enthusiasm for play,” per IFAW.
Thankfully, these traits, and his keen nose, made Bear an ideal candidate for the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Detection Dogs for Conservation Team. The school took in the canine and trained him to sniff out koalas and other wild animals in need of rescue during natural disasters. Bear excelled at training and soon became an official team member, which works with IFAW to protect wildlife.
During Australia’s 2019-2020 wildfire season, Bear used his skills to sniff out over 100 live koalas stuck in scorched areas and in need of rescue. Because of Bear, these koalas were able to get the medical care they desperately needed to recover from burns, malnourishment, and dehydration.
Jasper, a therapy dog from Lancashire, England, was also honored at the Animal Action Awards. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Jasper has visited National Health Service hospitals throughout England to provide support and comfort to frontline workers.
“Jasper’s role has always been to make people smile and feel better, and during the peak of the pandemic, when everyone was giving so much, sometimes staff just needed to have a cuddle with Jasper, have a cry, and go back to the wards.” David Anderson, Jasper’s owner, said.
“Jasper and Bear are two truly amazing dogs, both highlighting the important and positive relationships between animals and humans. They have made a huge difference to so many and continue to do so. We are very proud to recognize their achievements with IFAW awards,” James Sawyer, the U.K. director of IFAW, added about both dogs in IFAW’s release.