OLYMPIA, Wash. – A dog credited with standing guard for nearly a week to protect another dog that had fallen in a cistern was deemed "Washingtonian of the Day" Thursday by Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee.
Tillie, a setter-spaniel mix, was joined by her basset hound friend, Phoebe, and owner B.J. Duft as she received a written proclamation and a Washington apple pin on a ribbon that was tied around her neck.
Inslee had Tillie sit next to him as he read the proclamation in which he urged "everyone in Washington to celebrate the bravery and loyalty of this canine companion."
Last month, 11-year-old Tillie and 4-year-old Phoebe were found nearly a week after they were reported missing on Vashon Island by Duft. Volunteers looking for the pair received a call about a reddish dog being seen running out onto on someone's property and barking a few times before promptly heading back into a ravine.
A picture taken at the time they were found shows Tillie sitting next to the cistern where Phoebe was lying on a pile of stones above the water.
Duft, who said the dogs got out of his 5-acre property through an opening in the fence, said "a pit of despair started" as the hours and days passed with no sign of the dogs, even as he and volunteers coordinated by Vashon Island Pet Protectors searched daily.
When he got the call the dogs had been found, he said he was ecstatic and touched by the dedication between the two animals.
"It really made me think a lot about their friendship and Tillie's commitment to her companion, that's for sure," Duft said.
Duft said the dogs are enjoying their newfound fame on the island, about 20 miles southwest of Seattle, and now sport GPS collars.
The "Washingtonian of the Day" award is an informal way that the governor recognizes people who have inspired him, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. The governor has given out about 70 certificates since he's taken office. Tillie is the first non-human recipient.
"I saw this story and I just immediately said this is something Washington needs to celebrate," Inslee said. "I grew up with Rin Tin Tin and Lassie and I never thought I'd meet a real dog that had that type of Hollywood character, but Tillie's right here."