He ignored his deepest survival instincts to help save the life of his master.
His name is Kiwi and he’s an eight-year old Labrador mix guide dog who led his nearly totally blind master, Blair McConnell, through blocks of falling concrete and dust-filled air, towards safety during the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake.
McConnell, who is a Telecom sales rep, was dealing with a customer on the phone when the quake hit.
“I dived under the desk. Kiwi was already under it,” he said.
“I grabbed Kiwi’s harness and he was quite keen to get out of the building.
McConnell said Kiwi remained calm throughout the terrifying turmoil, leading him to the riverside where a passing motorist came to their rescue and drove them home. The ordeal took three hours.
“Some dogs feed off the emotion of the handler and the emotions of people around him,” McConnell said.
McConnell said that Kiwi‘s strength lies in his ability to put what he needs to do above that.
“I guess the fundamental motivation of any animal is survival. Based on a threatening situation, for them to put the safety of their handler… above the primeval requirement of survival is quite astounding,” he said.
Of the other guide dogs involved in the quake Paul Metcalf, head of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind’s Guide Dog Services, says no dogs bolted, abandoning their owners during the quake.
“Handlers and dogs worked very well to get out of the area as quickly as possible,” he said.
But he added many of the dogs were now suffering severe stress.
“There is the harsh reality that some of the dogs will have to retire because of the stress they’ve been through. If one of the dogs is really struggling with it, we wouldn’t put the dog under the same pressure again,” Metcalf said
Old guide dogs are usually retired to foster homes.
But not Kiwi just yet.