BRITISH COLUMBIA

Sako, B.C. Dog Who Saved Teen Owner's Life, Inducted Into Purina Hall Of Fame

05/04/2015 04:08 EDT | Updated 05/04/2015 05:59 EDT

A B.C. dog credited with saving a teen's life after a deadly car crash is being honoured with a spot in the Purina Hall of Fame.

Last summer, Joseph Phillips-Garcia, 16, set off with his aunt, cousin, friend, and his dog, Sako, for a family road trip, according to Purina's website. The group spent the day at Botanie Lake near their home in Kanaka Bar. That evening, they started their hour-long return trip, and Phillips-Garcia fell asleep in the back seat.

But the group never made it home. Their vehicle lost control on the road, went over an embankment and fell more than 100 metres (about 325 feet) into the forest below.

"I could feel the truck going over," Phillips-Garcia said in a video prodcued by Purina (watch above). "I didn't really know what was going on. It went black after that."

Phillips-Garcia's aunt, cousin, and friend were killed in the crash. The teen survived, but was stranded in the woods with both a broken leg and collar bone. He drifted in and out of consciousness in pain, his femur sticking out of his leg.

Wearing only a sweatshirt and shorts, Phillips-Garcia laid in the woods without food for two days.

But his four-year-old German shepherd, Sako, had also survived the crash, and stayed by his owner's side through the ordeal.

Sako laid on top of him to keep him warm, and brought wood over so Phillips-Garcia could make a fire with the lighter in his pocket. To make sure he kept hydrated, Sako helped the Phillips-Garcia drag himself over to the nearby creek for water.

sako

Stranded in the B.C. Interior, the threat of bears and other predators was imminent. One night, coyotes started circling.

"We were just falling asleep, and that's when you heard the first couple howls," Phillips-Garcia said. "Sako got up as soon as he realized their scent was coming closer and closer."

Sako charged into the forest, facing the coyotes head on.

"You could hear them fighting... the bushes just ruffling around," said the teen. "He came back, looked like he had a bite mark on his neck and that was it. So I laid him down beside me, made sure he was comfy and snuggled him up... and we fell asleep."

On the third day, Phillips-Garcia said he lost hope: "I just covered myself with rocks and accepted what was going to happen."

joseph phillips garcia

Joseph Phillips-Garcia, now 16, survived a fatal crash in June 2014.

The teen's family, Kelowna RCMP, and search and rescue crews had been combing the mountains for days. More than 40 hours after the crash, Phillips-Garcia's cousin, Denise, spotted him.

It took around three hours for crews to rescue the teen and his dog. Phillips-Garcia underwent several surgeries and took months to recover.

Sako is credited with keeping the teen alive.

"Not only did Sako’s protective and heroic actions help keep Joseph safe, it was also Sako’s devotion and unyielding companionship that gave him the hope and the courage to hold on until he was found," cited Purina on its website.

Sako was inducted into the hall of fame in a ceremony Monday in Toronto, along with three other dogs from Ontario: Badger, Bella, and Nettle.

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