Abandoned Dog Receives South Korea's First Honorary Rescue Prize After Saving Elderly Woman

A 4-year-old dog named Baekgu has just been named South Korea's first honorary rescue dog after he saved the life of his missing elderly owner.

Baekgu's owner, a 93-year-old woman suffering from dementia, was reported missing on August 25 after she fell unconscious in a field, according to The Korea Times.

When the woman, identified only as Kim, could not be found her daughter contacted authorities and filed a missing person's report. When authorities checked surveillance footage of a nearby farm, they saw the elderly woman leaving her village in ​​Hongseong county at dawn with her dog but never returning.

For nearly two days, the fire department and volunteers searched the area for the woman with no success. Authorities then turned to drone technology to advance the search for the missing woman.

Forty hours after her disappearance, authorities were able to pinpoint the woman's location when their drones picked up Baekgu's body temperature using thermal technology. The woman and her dog were in a wet rice field about 1.3 miles away from her home where she wandered from.

Authorities said the elderly woman had collapsed in the field and was unable to be seen because of the tall rice that grew there. She was soaking wet and unable to get out of the field alone.

After the woman collapsed, her trustworthy pup stayed by her side for the full 40 hours, keeping her company and warm even as she shivered from the beginnings of hypothermia.

Police reported the drone was unable to pick up the woman's body heat with the thermal drone because her body temperature had dropped so low from being in the cold rain.

Rescue workers successfully transported the woman to a hospital where she was treated for hypothermia. Authorities said they do not believe the elderly woman would have survived had her dog not sat with her to provide extra warmth.

On Monday, authorities honored Baekgu during a ceremony at the family's home. "At a difficult time due to COVID-19, Baekgu created an unbelievable miracle and moved everyone," Governor Yang Seung-jo said in a statement reported by CNN.

Last April, the National Fire Agency issued a declaration that allows animals to be appointed as honorary firefighters, rescue dogs and fire ambassadors. Baekgu is the first dog to receive the honor.

Photos from the ceremony showed Baekgu dressed with flowers around his neck as he posed next to his own celebratory cake. There was a small crowd in attendance including the governor.

Kim's daughter said Baekgu became a part of the family's life three years ago when they brought him in after he was attacked by a larger dog. The daughter joked that he seemed to return the favor by helping her mother to be located in the rice field. If it hadn't been for the tiny pup, thermal drones would not have been able to locate her.

"Baekgu was an abandoned dog and became part of our family when we saved him from attacks by another dog three years ago," the daughter said according to The Korea Times. "I am really thankful; it seems he returned our favor."

White dog lying in rice field
Baekgu, a 4-year-old pup, saved an elderly woman after drones detected his body temperature and helped authorities locate the missing woman. The woman was treated for hypothermia. Bruce Touron/Getty Images