On Christmas Eve 2015, Santana Hawman and her family left their Aberdeen-area acreage to meet her husband Mitch for a family gathering in Saskatoon. Although that night would change their lives forever, it would reveal a canine hero.
Rex, a malamute-shepherd cross, was adopted from the Saskatoon SPCA in September 2007. The Hawman family was attracted to Rex because of his size and breed; however Rex did not bond with Mitch immediately. According to Santana, “Rex didn’t seem to like being around men for the first year he was with our family.” Eventually that would change and the bond between Mitch and Rex would see them become the best of friends. Over the next eight years, Rex would develop a strong relationship with all members of the Hawman family, serving as a guardian for the couple’s young children.
On December 24th, Mitch’s mother, Noreen Lucas was staying with the family for the holidays. That evening, as the family left for dinner in Saskatoon, Noreen decided to stay home after coming down with an illness. Having trouble sleeping, Noreen took a sleep aid that would help her get some rest. As Noreen slept on the couch, a fire broke out in the Hawman house. Rex jumped into action attempting to wake Noreen from her slumber. Noreen initially ignored Rex’s panicked barking and turned over to fall back asleep. It was at this moment that Rex grabbed Noreen’s pajama pants in his teeth and pulled her off the couch and towards the door. The jarring bump to the floor was enough to wake Noreen, who realized the danger she was in. Noreen, along with Rex’s help, tried to save as many family pets as possible. Unfortunately, a cat, two rabbits, and a hamster succumbed to the fire.
While Noreen was able to make it out of the house safely, she was treated in hospital for smoke inhalation. It was not until the next morning that Mitch and Santana learned of Rex’s heroic actions. Noreen showed the family her pajama pants that had a small hole where the dog’s teeth had punctured the fabric, and a small bruise on her leg. After the terrifying ordeal, Noreen would be able to celebrate Christmas with her family thanks to the brave actions of Rex, the family dog.
In the days following the fire, Rex was still concerned for the safety of his family. Although he had seen each of the seven members of the family at one point or another, it was four days after the fire that Rex was able to see the entire family all together in one room. Rex’s familiar malamute howls of worry were traded for happy tail wags and friendly licks.
In May 2016, Rex was recognized for his actions as the latest inductee into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame, an annual event “that honours life-saving pet heroes.” The Hawman family, including their four-legged hero, travelled to Toronto for Rex to take his place in the Hall among Canada’s animal heroes.
The Hawman home was a total loss; however, this disaster could have been a lot worse if Rex had not been there to save Grandma Noreen. As the family begins the process of rebuilding their lives and their home, Santana has one important reminder for those looking to add a furry member to their family: “Shelter animals aren’t just animals at a shelter. They are animals in need of a home. They need a family. They need to be loved.”