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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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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David Bruce: Animal Heroes

• In May 2005, a stray dog apparently rescued an abandoned newborn girl in Nairobi, Kenya. The girl was taken to the Kenyatta National Hospital and named Angel, and many people expressed an interest in adopting her. The stray dog was also given a name: Mkombozi, which means Savior. Mary Adhiambo, who lives in the compound where the dog lives, said that the dog apparently found the newborn girl in the nearby Ngong Forest. Stephen Thoya said, “I saw a dog carrying a baby wrapped in a black dirty cloth as it crossed the road. I was shocked at first, and when I tried to get a closer look, the dog ran through the fence and disappeared along a dirt road.” Two children told adults that they had heard the crying of a baby, and the newborn girl was found in a shed where the puppies of two stray dogs were living. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said, “This is a very interesting development and the government is looking into it because if it happened the way it has been relayed, it is one of those amazing things that happens in life that defies human explanation. It indicates that there is somebody out there watching over us.” Mkombozi was being cared for after her rescue of the child. Jean Gilchrist of the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals said that Mkombozi was given a bath and a deworming and was being treated for ticks. Felix Omondi, age 11, and his family, who live in the compound, adopted the dog. Ms. Gilchrist said about Mkombozi and the newborn, “She reckoned it was a young animal and possibly wanted to bring it up. It is something to do with the canine-human bond. Other dogs might have just left her there to die.” Ms. Gilchrist added, “She’s obviously a very special dog. She is a very street-wise dog, that is for sure. The other dogs in the compound did not look very well, but she is the fattest of them all—she obviously knows how to look after herself.”

• On August 1, 2009, Ronnie, a wire fox terrier, responded when a coyote threatened his owners (Eric and Janis Christensen) and another pet dog (Annie). He jumped between the coyote and his owners, and he fought the coyote. Although the coyote bit Ronnie, the coyote ended up running away. Usually, Ronnie is not all that courageous. According to owner Janis Christensen, “Ronnie has always been extremely timid. Yesterday we had a repair person in our house, and Annie was barking and growling and trying to get at him, and Ronald put his tail between his legs and ran.” Because of Ronnie’s brave action, the Los Angeles branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals named him Hero Dog of the Year. According to SPCA-LA President Madeline Bernstein, “Ronnie’s personality was such that you wouldn’t think he would spring into action like he did. This shows that treating your pet with love and respect can be returned by an amazing heroic act. Coyotes wandering into backyards looking for food [are] becoming more and more prevalent.” Ronnie received a commemorative plaque and won a year’s supply of California Natural brand pet food, and Ronnie and his owners received a weekend getaway at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, California.

• Toddler Tyler Jacobson, who was only 22 months old, wandered off from his home and spent the night in the deep woods of South Carolina as the temperature dropped into the 40s. Tyler was wearing only a T-shirt and a diaper, but one of the family’s pet dogs, a medium-sized black Labrador retriever mix, went with him and kept him warm enough to stay alive during the night. Rescuers tried to find him that night, but failed, despite using both an infrared-equipped search helicopter and a bloodhound tracking team. Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said, “I believe that dog being with him is what kept him alive. I was with one of my officers talking to the helicopter crew when we got the call, ‘They found him.’ And I was like, ‘Is he alive?’ We worried there was no way, because of the coldness and because he had been out there all night.When they said, ‘He’s fine,’ I’m thinking, Wow. How did that happen? And the answer is because of that dog.” In the morning, Tyler was heard crying and was rescued about a quarter-mile from his home.

• In 2009, Julie Hill posted an essay titled “Faithful Dogs” on <dogcastradio.com>. A person who called him- or herself “Anonymous” posted this comment on the essay on 11 January 2009: “I was walking on a clear sunny day in Scarborough, Ontario, passing a house. Down the driveway ran a little boy, not more than 18 months old barechested, sporting a diaper only. Happy as Larry, he flew to the end of the road. I ran towards him. I was not seeing any adult about to grab at him before he ran into the oncoming traffic. Another runner, faster than myself got to him first, digging his heels in and gripping the back of the diaper so hard it split. The boy stopped to see who was inhibiting his run to freedom and when he turned he saw a German Shepherd, bigger than himself, holding fast. I watched, fascinated, as the little boy turned around and walked quietly back up the driveway—still no adult in sight—his arm around the dog’s neck.”

• In September 2004, a man identified only as Aurel C, from Focsani, Romania, suffered a heart attack and fell before he could reach a telephone. Fortunately, Max, his nine-year-old German Shepherd, saved his life. Aurel C said, “I was getting ready to go to bed when I felt an awful claw in my chest and fell on the floor. I tried to get the phone in the other room but had no power to move. With my last strength I told the dog ‘fetch the phone, Max’ and like in a dream I saw him snatching the phone from the wall and bringing it under my nose. I called the ambulance and woke up at the hospital. I can’t wait to go back home to my Max.”

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David Bruce: Animal Heroes

• Jessica Stam, legally blind and aged 25 in July 2005, owes her life to her guide dog, Joan, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, who engaged in what is called “intelligent disobedience,” which is disobeying the owner when there is a good reason for disobeying the owner. Jessica and Joan were walking together when Joan suddenly stopped even though Jessica wanted to continue walking forward. Just then a car came down a driveway. Jessica said, “The woman didn’t see us. She said, ‘Oh, my God, I am so sorry.’ Joan saved my life. With just my cane, I would have been road kill.” Jessica, who lives in Eustis, Florida, is grateful to have Joan. She said, “There’s so much I can do now that I couldn’t do before. I was always nervous even when I would go to the grocery store. I would knock over displays. Joan stops and goes around it. She stops for obstacles. She looks to see what’s there.” The guide dog also has another advantage for Jessica, who said, “The general public is much more sensitive to a handicap when you have a guide dog. With my cane, most people would avoid me. I hated it. I felt self-conscious. There’s nothing I can’t do now, except drive. I really have that much self-confidence.” She added, “Before I used my cane, and now it’s so much different. It’s so much easier to have my dog. Joan is just perfect. She is my miracle.”

• When Maureen Porter, a 69-year-old grandmother, fell and broke her hip in Cenarth, Ceredigion, Wales, in May 2005, no humans were close enough to hear her cries for help. Fortunately, Pedro, her 15-year-old border collie, stayed with her for 18 hours, keeping her warm all night and prodding her with his paw to keep her awake. The next morning, Mrs. Porter’s husband, Eric Porter, who was visiting Essex, telephoned her. When she did not answer, Mr. Porter telephoned a neighbor, Pat Milner, who checked up on and found Mrs. Porter. Mr. Porter, age 70, said, “Maureen had dirt under her fingernails from trying to move. It was very dark and cold throughout the night, and she could hear owls and foxes. But Pedro made sure she was safe and warm.” Ten years previously, Mrs. Porter had adopted Pedro from a dog’s rescue home. Mr. Milner said about Mrs. Porter, “She was cold and unwell. I dread to think what would have happened but for him [Pedro].” Mr. Porter said, “Someone in the village shop asked me the other day if I was going to play the lottery this week and I said, ‘No, I think I’ve already won because I’ve still got Maureen.’”

• On 23 February 2005, Neena Saloiya, who lives independently, has been blind from birth, and was a student at Woodsworth College in the University of Toronto, brushed a hot electric element with her oven mitt, which caught on fire and started a big blaze in her apartment. She called 911 and then let her guide dog, Ziggy, lead her to safety down 20 flights of stairs. She said about Ziggy, “He pushed me with his head as if to say, ‘Go this way.’” Her apartment was gutted and she had no insurance, but people rallied to help her. All she had was a cell phone, the clothing she was wearing at the time of the fire, and Ziggy, but officials at the University of Toronto got her a place in a suite that she shared with three other students. She said, “It’s going OK. It’s a change for them too, especially having Ziggy there, but they’re handling it well, so it’s nice.” Ms. Saloiya received other help as well and was looking forward to going back to her apartment after its renovation. She said, “I would like to say thank you to people.”

• In July 2011 in Beaverton, Oregon, a family’s pet dog, a golden retriever whose name is Marcus, woke them up and enabled them to escape from and put out a fire. Marcus woke up Kelli Landis and her husband. Kelli said, “Had he not been barking and just sounding different than he usually did, we could have just still stayed asleep. But the thing was that he was being so loud. And he even came into the bedroom and was growling and just making a lot of noise. And that got us up.” Her husband alerted their neighbors in the apartment building about the fire and they put it out using pots and pans and trashcans filled with water. Kelli and her husband had adopted Marcus in Hawaii. When they moved to Oregon, they thought about leaving Marcus behind because of the expense of taking him with them, but they are thankful they did not do that. Kelli said, “He was a rescue dog. We rescued him, and now he’s rescued us.” The Landises rewarded Marcus with a rawhide bone and a new toy ball.

• In June 2005, in Vancouver, Washington, a 2-year-old black Lab named Maddie saved the life of a 2-year-old boy named Sammy by making what Sammy’s father, Ron Lobey, called a “weird bark” that caused him to investigate what was upsetting Maddie. He found his son floating face-up, but still under the water of a pond. He performed CPR on his son, who completely recovered. Being face-up is rare in drowning victims; Maddie may have tried to pull the toddler from the pond. The Lobeys got Maddie when his son was born. Mr. Lobey said, “She helped us save our baby’s life.”

• When the 26 December 2004 tsunami hit the village of Tarang Badi in India, Prabhakaran was out to sea and Mubbi, his daughter, was on the shore. He tried to get to her, but the tsunami knocked him unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he discovered that his daughter was still alive. He said, “Some villagers saved me, and they told me later that my dog Ramu saved my daughter.” When the waters began to recede, Ramu had gone into the waters and dragged Mubbi out by her hair. Prabhakaran adds, “Many people say God saved them, but in my daughter’s case it was my dog.”

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