A six-year-old border collie-kelpie cross is being hailed as a hero after it helped to save a flock of sheep from wildfires near the town of Corryong in Victoria, Australia. The dog, Patsy, was able to round up the sheep to a safe paddock as her owner fought the fire in a tractor with a tank of water in an attempt to save the farm's hay bales, silage, shearing shed, and farm houses.
Patsy's story was shared online by the farmer's sister, Cath Hill. She labelled Patsy a "wonder dog" in photos of Patsy sat on the farm with fire visible in the background.
Cath also shared footage of the wildfire a local had taken from inside the town at the time of the rescue, which showed fire and smoke approaching her brother's farm. She explained that many in the town believed that her brother and Patsy "were goners" as the fires approached the farm.
Cath was eventually able to make it to the farm, and learned of the efforts to save the farm and the sheep.
"This is Patsy just after she and her human brought the sheep to safety on the morning of New Year’s Eve," Cath explained in an Instagram post. "Cool as a cucumber, Patsy waited with him until the fire got close enough to fight with a tractor and water pump. What a team!"
Cath explained to Metro that while the farm is now safer than it was, her brother is still fighting fires in Corryong, which could burn for weeks.
"It’s like Armageddon," she said. "Everyone is just trying to get water and feed to their animals, shoot the ones that can’t be saved, get temporary fences up to keep stock secure, and put out all the logs and stumps still burning. And there’s people who have nothing left but the clothes on their backs."
She went on to explain that while cool weather has helped stop the fires in recent days, hotter weather and wind is expected to return later his week.
"They are expected to get worse around Thursday this week when hot windy weather returns," she explained.
Cath went on to add: "It’s unbelievable and it’s only going to get worse. That’s why we put Patsy’s story out there. People need something positive."
Matt Wilson, a Corryong local man, has set up a GoFundMe page to help the area recover from the fires and has so far raised $28,000.
He explained: "One of the great things about this place is the seclusion, and still pristine condition of the rivers and mountains. But that also means it’s easy to get cut off from the rest of the world. Cut off by road, or loss of power, or phone/internet. Usually they just get on with life when this happens, they do not complain, and they make do."
"This community has spent the New Year battling one of the biggest fires to ever come through the district," he added. "Every single little town and area has been affected in some way. We have some bloody amazing firefighters who have risked their own lives and properties to save as much of others as possible. They have saved a lot of houses, but many have not been this lucky; some have lost everything and a lot of farms, sheds, stock and feed have been lost. This is their livelihood."