Baekgu’s owner, a 90-year-old woman with dementia living in South Korea’s Hongseong county, went missing on August 25, according to press releases from the county and provincial governments.
When police checked the security camera footage of a nearby farm, they saw the woman, identified only as Kim, and her little white dog leaving the village. They launched a search operation with the fire department, as well as volunteer residents who scoured the area as rain poured down.
Finally, 40 hours later, she was found in the middle of a rice field, about two kilometers (about 1.3 miles) away from her home. She had collapsed in a wet area where the rice grew tall and full, hiding her from view, and leaving her drenched and unable to get up.
She might not have made it if not for faithful Baekgu, police said in the press release on Monday.
Throughout the entire ordeal, as the weather got worse and the night grew cold, Baekgu stayed by her side — keeping her body temperature up, even as she began experiencing symptoms of hypothermia.
And it was Baekgu who authorities credited with the 90-year-old woman’s eventual rescue. The search team sent out a thermal drone, which detected the little dog’s thermal signature in the rice field.
The woman is now recovering in the hospital, said the press release — and on Monday, authorities awarded Baekgu a new title for his courage.
The National Fire Agency had introduced a regulation last year that allowed the appointment of honorary firefighters, fire ambassadors and rescue dogs — making Baekgu the country’s first-ever honorary rescue dog.
Photos from the ceremony show a floral garland placed around Baekgu’s neck, with a small crowd in attendance — as well as the provincial governor.
“At a difficult time due to Covid-19, Baekgu created an unbelievable miracle and moved everyone,” said Gov. Yang Seung-jo.
Shim Geum-sun, the daughter of the 90-year-old, said they adopted Baekgu three years ago after he was attacked by a bigger dog.
“Baekgu especially liked my mother, and it’s as if Baekgu returned our favor,” Shim said. “I was so concerned as mom went missing for hours due to the rainy weather … I’m grateful and Baekgu is our family.”