Toni Sullivan has her pet dog Charlie to thank for saving her life after a serious accident left her injured and unconscious.
The 2-year-old cavoodle is being called a hero for leading people to Sullivan after she tumbled down a bank while biking in Whangarei's Glenbervie Forest last month.
Sullivan, 59, was knocked out, and when she came to, Charlie was placing sticks and pine cones around her head.
"When it happened I was face down and he was dropping pine cones on me. I was thinking to myself, are you stupid, dog? You should be saving me."
Despite lapsing in and out of consciousness, Sullivan managed to call an ambulance.
As she waited for help, Charlie was running up to the track and barking, finally attracting the attention of a passerby who kept Sullivan company.
It took three hours for the ambulance to arrive and X-rays later found four broken vertebrae in her neck and two broken ribs.
It wasn't until Sullivan left the hospital five days later that she was told it was Charlie who alerted the passerby and led them to her.
"Everyone was saying he was a hero."
Sullivan wasn't Charlie's first owner, the breeder told her Charlie had been returned to her by a previous family.
"The family rang the breeder and said you need to take him back. He's a bad dog, he's vicious."
This incident now seems like fate to Sullivan, who says Charlie was meant to be hers.
"I think he was my dog waiting for me because we fell in love with each other straight away and he has been devoted to me ever since."
Animal behaviour expert Mark Vette said 40,000 years of co-evolution of dogs and humans had created a special relationship between the species.
"That's evolved into real collaboration and the ability to understand each other at levels that no other species does, and one of those things is his gift giving."
Vette explained that Charlie bringing pine cones to his owner is part of a retrieving process that goes back to ancestral pack-protecting mentality.
"Poodles have a bit of a retrieve kind of ability and they're a hunting breed too. A Cavalier king Charles is much more of a companion lap dog, but gets very attached and bonds strongly."
Vette said socialised dogs could recognise humans as part of their pack, and had been protecting humans for thousands of years.
"Some scientists believe that in effect (human) collaboration with dogs saved us from extinction."
Sullivan is now at home recuperating and Charlie is still enjoying his newfound hero status.