David Bruce: Animal Heroes

• In August 1996, Cerise Summers was inside her home watching a soap opera. Inside with her was Bambi, her seven-month-old pet beagle. Outside, playing in a sandbox where she could hear them, were her three-year-old son, Troy, and his playmate, Mika Paloma, who was two and a half years old. Cerise said, “At a crucial part of the program, Bambi started whining and barking to be let out. I told her to wait.” Bambi would not wait. When Cerise reached out to give Bambi a swat, Bambi snapped at her—something that she had never done before. Cerise said, “I was shocked. And maybe that brainy beagle knew that was what it would take to make me pay attention to her. Anyway, that was when I began to think seriously that something must be wrong to make her act in such a manner.” Cerise let Bambi out. Cerise said, “The moment she was free of the house, she began snarling and growling like she was ready to do battle with a bear, I ran after her to see what had so upset her—and then I got the shock of my life!” The shock was a strange man who had Troy under one arm and Mika under the other. Bambi bit the man, who dropped the two children. Cerise said, “He was cursing Bambi a blue streak, but by this time I had a garden hoe in my hands and was charging toward him. He took one look at the rage in my eyes, the hoe in my hands, and the fury in Bambi’s snapping teeth, and jumped over the fence. That’s when I really started to scream, and several neighbors came out to see what was happening.” Bambi received a very nice reward for saving the two children from the strange man: a huge serving of her favorite meal—hamburger and French fries and ketchup.

• In February 2011 an earthquake struck New Zealand, killing dozens of people in Christchurch. Blair McConnell, who is blind, was caught in the earthquake along with Kiwi, his eight-year-old Labrador mix guide dog. Mr. McConnell said, “I dived under the desk. Kiwi was already under it. I grabbed Kiwi’s harness, and he was quite keen to get out of the building.” Kiwi led Mr. McConnell out of the building, in which blocks of concrete were falling in the dusty air, to safety. Kiwi remained calm in the emergency. Mr. McConnell said, “I guess the fundamental motivation of any animal is survival. Based on a threatening situation, for them to put the safety of their handler … above the primeval requirement of survival is quite astounding.” Other guide dogs were present with their handlers during the earthquake. Paul Metcalf, head of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind’s Guide Dog Services, said that all the dogs helped their owners—none ran away. Mr. Metcalf said, “Handlers and dogs worked very well to get out of the area as quickly as possible.” Unfortunately, some of the guide dogs are now showing signs of severe stress. He said, “There is the harsh reality that some of the dogs will have to retire because of the stress they’ve been through. If one of the dogs is really struggling with it, we wouldn’t put the dog under the same pressure again.” In such cases, another home is usually found for the guide dog. The earthquake was severe. Jaydn Katene, a Christchurch resident, said, “We’ve had friends in town call us and say there are just bodies lying around: lots of dead bodies outside shops just lying there just covered in bricks.”

• On January 31, 2011, in Port Charlotte, Florida, a man with a knife confronted a woman named Angela (no last name given), whose 2-year-old son was with her, and told her not to make any sudden movements or noise. Fortunately, a 65-pound Pitt Bull came to the rescue. Animal Control Lt. Brian Jones said, “I don’t think the dog physically attacked the man, but he went at him and was showing signs of aggression, just baring his teeth and growling and barking. It was clear he was trying to defend this woman. I don’t know what this man’s intentions were, but it is very possible this dog saved her life.” Angela had never seen the Pitt Bull before. Mr. Jones said, “You hear about family dogs protecting their owners, but this dog had nothing to do with this woman or her kid. He was like her guardian angel.” After the dog frightened away the man with the knife, Angela went to her car. The Pitt Bull jumped into the back seat. The Pitt Bull was taken to an animal shelter, and if its owner does not claim it within five days, Angela has plans to adopt it. She has even named it “Angel.” Angela said, “I’m glad that Angel showed up because I don’t know what would have happened.”

• When Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of states lining the Gulf of Mexico, 80-year-old George Mitchell stayed in his hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, figuring that since he had already survived three hurricanes that he could survive one more. He did move into a neighbor’s house that was on higher ground than his own, and he did have an elderly pet dog (a miniature poodle-schnauzer mix) named Frisky to stay with him. Hurricane Katrina was worse than the three previous hurricanes that Mr. Mitchell had survived. It destroyed his house, it ripped off the back door of the neighbor’s house he was staying in, and it flooded the neighbor’s house he was staying in. As the water rose, Mr. Mitchell put Frisky on an air mattress. The water kept rising, and soon Mr. Mitchell was treading water while holding on to the air mattress. Of course, soon Mr. Mitchell grew tired. He said later, “I started to give up. Then Frisky crawled to the edge of the mattress and licked my face.” For all that night, whenever Mr. Mitchell stopped treading water, Frisky licked his face and kept him awake and moving. The next day the water began to go down. Both Mr. Mitchell and Frisky survived Katrina.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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