Many years ago during a visit to my home province of Newfoundland, I heard the unusual report of a family being saved from a house fire by a hamster. I couldn’t tell you now where the rescue happened or even when it happened. All I can tell you is that through online searches, I found accounts of other small animals, such as a rat and a rabbit, alerting their families to a deadly blaze.
We have plenty of pet heroes right here in Lincoln. Kim Cassel shared with me her own story of a fire rescue. One night while Kim slept, her dog Gracie began to bark and bark. She didn’t stop until Kim woke up. At that point, Kim saw a bright light through her drapes. Pulling them back, she saw that a fire had engulfed the house next door. Kim immediately got Gracie out, put her in her car, and moved it away from the fire. Then she called 911 and returned to her house for a few belongings. Thanks to a very persistent dog and a quick-thinking owner, the two escaped the fire without any harm.
Pets save their owners in other ways too. For example, Janet Ball refers to her cocker spaniel as her “service dog”. Three times, Paddy has woken Janet up when her blood sugar was low. Paddy would jump on Janet, and Janet would get out of bed on the assumption Paddy had to potty. But when she stood up, Janet could tell she needed help.
Another life-saving story comes from Carrie Burkhart. She and her rescue Tortoiseshell cat, Bonnie, had been traveling one night. Carrie was taking medication for an abscess on her leg. The two went to bed but, in the middle of the night, Bonnie started to bite Carrie’s ear. When Carrie woke up she was covered in blood, but not from the bites. Her abscess had ruptured and nicked her femoral artery, putting Carrie in an emergency situation.
This ability of animals to save human lives is the topic of an anthology I recently read. Daisy to the Rescue, by Jeff Campbell, increased my interest in pet heroics for multiple reasons. For one thing, every story has been substantiated by multiple reports or an otherwise thorough investigation. In addition, the animals in it are diverse, as are the settings. Besides dogs and cats, there are a horse, rabbit, parrot, pig, and even wild animals. As for locations, while the majority of stories occur in North America, many happened in Europe or in Asia. Still other locations include Afghanistan, Australia, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. I was especially interested in Campbell’s analysis of each story to show how the real-life event and the scientific data on animal emotions and intelligence fit together.
While Daisy to the Rescue is all about animals rescuing people, often animals will come to the aid of each other. Jayne Sebby told me the story of how, a few months after her three “still mostly feral” cats moved in, one of them (Rum Tum) was attacked outside by a neighbor cat. Her dog Blue (who didn’t care for Rum Tum at all and had been harassing him in the house) dashed past him and chased the neighbor cat out of the yard. According to Jayne, it made a big difference in Rum Tum’s life because after that he decided to stay with the family.
Cindy Hruza’s childhood cat, Calico, saved the family’s toy poodle from the neighbor’s Coonhound, which was shaking their dog by the neck like a rug. Without any hesitation, Calico leaped onto the dog and wrapped herself around his face, sinking into his back and throat with her claws. As he tried to shake her off, Calico gave him a slash across the face that caused him to flee. Not only did Calico chase him to the edge of their property, but she chased him clear down the block. It’s the last time the neighbor’s Coonhound ever bothered “her” poodle.
Pet heroics come in many other forms. In the few months that I’ve been collecting stories, I seem to have zeroed in on tales of pets who traveled great distances to find their owners. One cat walked 190 miles back to its home after being lost during a vacation. A dog was reunited with owners after being separated when three tornadoes ripped through the town and demolished their house. Then there’s the dog who walked fifteen blocks to find his hospitalized owner. Similarly, a cat apparently walked across “cattle fields, rock quarries, forests, and busy highways” to find her 82-year-old owner in a hospital that the cat had never before visited. A quick online search will turn up many more of these stories.
Of course, not all of our pets save us from life-threatening emergencies or even return to us from great distances. Sometimes they save us in smaller ways. Nancy Becker shared with me how Alex, as a kitten, used to carry and bring little things to her. Like paperclips. He’d find these on the floor, carry them in his mouth, and give them to her with a look that said, “this could be dangerous to one of us, you better put it away”. Truly, our pets save us every day by loving us and keeping us sane.
Do you have your own pet hero story? If so, please share in the comments. Maybe you could be featured in a future post!
Thanks to all those who contributed to this post about heroics. In particular, I appreciate how much everyone put up with my constant pestering for photos. It took me weeks to write this article, but I arrogantly expected photos to get sent within hours. 😉
Cat Lost on Vacation Walks Home
Daisy to the Rescue
Dog Shows Up at Hospital
Dog Survives Tornado
Rescued Dog Saves Family From Fire
Pet Rabbit Alerts Family to Rescue
Six Pets that Traveled Long Distances
Ten True Animal Rescues