We have such a close bond with dogs, it’s no wonder stories of their bravery and devotion have been recorded throughout history. Dog heroes come in all sizes and breeds, during war and peace. Some were mutts and some were purebreds, but they all had one thing in common. They faced danger to protect people. These dogs are only 10 of the many who risked their lives during war and peace time to protect people and animals. Some were soldiers, some were pets and some were strays, but all of them made a difference to the people around them.
Dixie the Pit Bull didn’t hesitate when she saw a cottonmouth near her family. She rushed in pushing 3 kids out of the way to plant herself between them and the snake, taking two deadly bites to her face as she defended her family. After killing the snake with an ax, Dixie’s owner rushed her to the vet, but by the time they arrived, Dixie was unconscious and in serious trouble. Thanks to her owner’s quick actions, she recovered and returned to her family. Dixie was inducted into the Georgia Animal Hall of Fame in 2008.
Dboy took the bull by the horns in 2009 when an intruder threatened his family. He rushed an armed man holding his family at gunpoint. Dboy was shot three times, twice in the head before the man ran away after being scared by the pit bull who had raced in from another room. Thanks to a brave dog hero, no one was injured and Dboy survived his ordeal. He was presented with the People’s Hero Award from the Humane Society’s Annual Dogs of Valor Award.
Riva and Salty took charge to guide their blind owners to safety on 9/11. On the 71st floor of one of the Twin Towers, Riva and Salty stayed calm and slowly worked their way through blinding and choking smoke, crowded hallways and the confusion of what had taken place. Both dogs led their owners and a woman the men were helping to safety. Riva and Salty were presented with the Dickin Award in 2002 for their bravery and devotion to duty.
Angel, an 18 month old Golden Retriever in Vancouver, British Columbia, became a famous dog hero early in January 2010 when 11-year-old Austin went out to collect firewood for the family’s wood burning furnace. Dogs sense things we don’t. Instead of waiting in the yard playing, like she usually did, Angel followed Austin. It was getting dark and only one yard light lit Austin’s path. He was almost to the woodshed when suddenly he saw something bearing down on him from out of the darkness. It was a cougar. Angel hit the cat before it could reach her boy. Tangled in a fight to the death with the cougar, she fought as hard as she could, but was out matched by the cat who had a death grip on her head. The town’s constable arrived in time to shoot the cougar. Angel recovered from multiple wounds to her head and face and returned home to the people she was ready to give her life for.
Rocky and Barco were a different breed of dog heroes. Both were Belgian Malinois, a breed similar to German Shepherds. In 1987, they worked as a team with the Border Patrol in an area between Texas and Mexico known as “Cocaine Ally”. They are credited with assisting their human handlers in snagging $128 million in cocaine and other drugs in 11 months and keeping the drugs out of the U.S. Mexican drug smugglers detested the dogs so much, they put a $30,000 bounty on each dog. Aware of the bounty, the Border Patrol gave Rocky and Barco special protection.
Beauty was a wired-haired terrier owned by a PDSA Veterinary Officer in London. He lead an Animal Rescue Squad in the early days of WW II. Beauty sniffed out and saved at least 63 animals who had been buried in rubble after bombing raids rained down on the city, proving how valuable dogs were in animal rescues. She was award the Pioneer Medal which is usually reserved for humans. In 1945, she was given the Dickin Award for her service to man and animals.
Rigel and 2 other dogs were the only canines aboard the Titanic to survive the sinking. A large, striking black Newfoundland, this dog hero belonged to the ship’s 1st Officer. Rigel went down with the ship at his owner’s side. He survived, but was left on his own to tread water in the freezing ocean. He began searching frantically for his master, but the 1st Officer didn’t survive the sinking. If Rigel had been any other breed, he wouldn’t have had a chance of surviving in the icy water. Reports of his bravery told how he helped people who were still in the water by pulling debris to them to help them stay afloat. When the Carpathia finally arrived, a lifeboat was directly in her path. Rigel swam between the boat and the ship barking until the Captain finally heard him. The ship’s engines were shut down in time to avoid a collision. Rigel was finally pulled to safety along with the occupants in the lifeboat. A sailor on board the Carpathia was so impressed with Rigel, he adopted him on the spot.
Laika became a dog hero not because she saved someone, but because she gave Russian scientists valuable information on how space travel affected living beings. A stray Siberian Husky mix, she was the first living soul to actually go into outer space. She was lost when her space capsule burnt up as it returned to earth. Her sacrifice should never be forgotten because what scientists learned made space travel safer for humans.
Barry was a Saint Bernard who was raised in a monastery in the Swiss Alps. Born in 1800 and died in 1814, he’s considered the most famous Saint Bernard of all time. A favorite with the monks who lived in the monastery and the village people, Barry was a dog hero who risked his own life to save over 40 people who had become lost or stranded in the dangerous mountain pass the monastery guarded. Because of their rescue work, the Saint Bernard became known as search and rescue dogs. To this day, one pup from every litter born in the monastery is named Barry to honor a brave dog.
Balto, a Siberian Husky, wasn’t thought of as a dog hero to his owner, Leonhard Seppala, when a devastating diptheria outbreak threatened to wipe out the residents of Nome, Alaska in 1925. Gunnar Kassen, with Balto as his lead dog, ran the last leg of a relay race to deliver life saving serum to the people of Nome. Not known as a lead dog, Balto headed into a wicked blizzard that had been hammering Alaska for days. Enduring -70 degree temperatures, he courageously followed his instincts through whiteout conditions to stay on the trail. Kassen praised him for saving not only his life, but the other dogs in the team when Balto stopped just short of a lake with thin ice. If they had continued, the life saving mission would have ended there. A bronze statue of Balto stands in Central Park in New York City. The running of the Iditarod follows the same trail of the 1925 Serum Run to honor the brave men and dogs who saved a small town.
Canine Heros, dogwatch
K-9 History: Great Britain’s War Dogs, community-2.webtv.net
Dogs Through History, homepage.ntlworld.com