David Bruce: Animal Heroes

• The Humane Society of the United States named Yogi, a Golden Retriever, the 2011 Valor Dog of the Year after he led neighbors to Paul Horton, his then-57-year-old owner, who lay paralyzed after a bicycling accident near Lake Travis, Texas. Mr. Horton, a retired mechanical engineer, had gotten Yogi as a puppy four years previous to the accident. Mr. Horton rode his mountain bike daily on trails to keep in shape. But on October 30, 2010, when he tried to jump a curb on his bike, he failed. He said, “I’m sure I’ve done it 100 times, but this time my front wheel stopped, and I went over the handlebars and landed on my head.” He broke his neck and lay unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he realized that he was paralyzed and that Yogi was with him. He joked about Yogi, “I expected him to behave like Lassie and run down to the police station and tap out my location in Morse code or something.” Hetold Yogi to get help, but for 45 minutes Yogi stayed by him. Mr. Horton was unable to call for help and he lay on a dead-end street where he was difficult to see. However, when neighbors appeared on the main street from which the dead-end street branched, Yogi went to the neighbors. Normally, Yogi is a quiet dog, but when he barked repeatedly at the neighbors, Bruce and Maggie Tate, they knew that something was wrong. Bruce Tate said, “Yogi is a quiet, happy dog, he’s never noisy at all, but he was barking furiously to get our attention.” They followed Yogi, who led them to the paralyzed Mr. Horton. Mr. Tate said, “I don’t think we would have seen Paul without Yogi. I think Yogi saved his life.” He added, “It’s pretty amazing that Yogi first stayed with Paul when he needed to, then recognized us and came to get us. Paul was in desperate shape. He wasn’t in a place where there’s a lot of traffic.” The Tates got help for Mr. Horton, who was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center in Round Rock, Texas, where his wife, Shearon, and Yogi visited him several times. Dr. Juan Latoree, the Medical Director of St. David’s, said, “For somebody who cannot move and cannot ask for help, you can develop a pressure ulcer, you develop an infection, a clot, and you can die if you are not rescued soon. So I think the dog was critical.” He added, “The dog alerting his neighbor was instrumental in getting him to a hospital and preventing his choking to death or going into shock. He might not have survived if he hadn’t been found until the next day.” Nicole Paquette, Texas senior state director of the Humane Society, said, “It takes a very unique and special dog to do what Yogi did.” Mr. Horton said about Yogi, “He’s my buddy.” Mrs. Horton added, “That’s an understatement.” Now, Yogi stays very close to Mr. Horton, who said, “He stays within sight of me in the house. If I change rooms, he changes rooms. If I move over five feet, he moves over five feet.” Yogi will move away from Mr. Horton when Mrs. Horton plays “Fluttering Leaves in A-Minor” on the piano. Then he moves by Mrs. Horton and howls along to the music.

• On Saturday, January 2, 2010, a golden retriever named Angel lived up to her name by saving Austin Forman, her 11-year-old owner, from a cougar attack in Boston Bar, British Columbia, Canada. Austin said, “I’m pretty sure that if my dog wasn’t there I wouldn’t be here right now. Thank goodness we are both alive and she protected me.” Austin was hauling firewood to his family’s home when the cougar appeared. He said, “It was coming after me, and Angel intercepted. The cougar grabbed Angel.” The two animals fought as Austin ran screaming into his home. His mother, Sherri Forman, call 911, and the dispatcher told Boston Bar RCMP Const. Chad Gravelle, who immediately jumped in his car and drove to the Formans’ home. He said, “I could see the cougar had the dog in its mouth, around the dog’s neck. It was chewing on its neck.” Const. Gravelle shot the cougar twice, killing it. He thought that Angel was dead, but she took a noisy breath. Despite numerous wounds, Angel was expected to fully recover from the cougar attack. Sherri, Austin’s mother, said, “It could have turned out a lot different if it wasn’t for Angel. She’s our guardian angel.”

• In February 1985, Priscilla, a three-month-old pet pig, became the first animal to be inducted into the Texas Animal Hall of Fame. Owned by Victoria Herberta, Priscilla wore a harness and a leash similar to those worn by dogs. During a trip to a lake in the Houston area, Priscilla began swimming. Wading in the water was 11-year-old Anthony Melton, who could not swim. Anthony reached a drop-off ledge in the water and found himself in water over his head. Priscilla swam close to the thrashing boy, who grabbed her harness. Priscilla then swam to shore, towing the boy behind her. Although Priscilla weighed only 45 pounds and the boy weighed much more, Priscilla saved the boy’s life.

• One of the best things that Johanna and Roger Tanner ever did was to get a cat named Grover. One night in the late 1970s, their house filled with smoke after a defective intercom started a fire. Although Grover could have gotten out of the house, he stayed. First he went into the bathroom and started knocking bottles and other items on the floor. No one woke up. So Grover went into the bedroom of the Tanners’ daughter, four-year-old Lynn, and bit and scratched her, making her cry. Her crying woke up her parents, who got Lynn, Grover, and the family dog out of the house. As a smoke detector, Grover has one advantage over other smoke detectors—no batteries are required.

• “A dog is the only thing on earth that will love you more than you love yourself.” — Josh Billings

• “Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to.” — Joe Gores

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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