From service dogs to shaggy dogs, canine heroes cross all breeds, genders, places and times. The earliest such hero may be the story of Gelert, a legendary dog, alleged to have been a gift from King John of England to Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd.
Llywelyn returned from hunting to find his baby missing, the cradle overturned, and his dog’s mouth covered with blood. Enraged to think the dog had savaged his child, Llywelyn brutally kills it. After the dog’s dying yelps subside, Llywelyn hears the cries of his baby. The child is under the cradle, unharmed, next to the corpse of the wild animal which had invaded the house. He realizes that the animal had been killed by the brave Gelert. Overcome with remorse, Llywelyn buries the dog with great ceremony, yet, for the rest of his days, he can still hear the dying yelps from his beloved dog. Thus, an innocent dog’s effort to protect his human charge, has come down through the ages as a morality tale of the “faithful hound.”
As in this fable, dogs have, possibly since the beginning of their partnership with humans, been our heroes, protecting us from harm – even at risk or at cost of their own lives.
Today, many of these dogs are acknowledged and their exploits heralded. Two different guide dogs led their human partners to safety during the World Trade Center attacks.
In the Navy SEALs “Operation Neptune Spear,” in which Osama bin Laden was killed, only one of the 81 members of the super-secret SEAL DevGru unit was identified by name: Cairo, a Belgian Malinois. These and many other remarkable dogs are now enshrined in current memory.
Yet, I am reminded of stories read years ago. Their source is lost, but I decided to repeat them here as best I can recall them, to pay tribute to these canine heroes:
A Newfoundland Hero
A family was enjoying a picnic on the banks of a thunderously loud, fast-flowing river when their Newfoundland dog suddenly jumped up and rushed headlong into the dangerous rapids. Only then, did someone hear faint cries for help. The family stood helpless, watching their great dog struggle through the powerful current. Then, miraculously, they saw the dog grab the collar of a little boy’s jacket and begin to pull him into shore. Just as the family reached down to grab the boy, his anxious parents arrived, having run madly for more than a half-mile after their son had fallen into the river. Although the boy was wet and frightened, he survived. It might not seem so unusual that the dog who saved the little boy’s life was a Newfoundland, since their genetic heritage was to help fishermen pull in their nets. What makes this story so incredible is that this Newfoundland dog was blind.
Service Dog Protector
A young woman was driving a car, accompanied by her service dog. She was hit by another car that fled the scene. The woman was thrown from the car and seriously injured. Her service dog jumped out and stayed by her side. The accident had taken place in a remote area and the man who called it in said he never would have known had he not heard a dog howling in misery. When the howling persisted, he realized something was seriously wrong. He left his house and followed the sound of the dog’s cries where he saw what happened and called 911. Later, the doctors said that if the woman had not been found quickly, she would likely have died from her injuries.
Similar to the previous story is one of another young woman who crashed her car. Both car doors had flown open and as bystanders approached to help, the car suddenly burst into flames. Then, a dog emerged and raced around the front of the car to the driver’s side. In spite of the searing heat, he plunged inside, grabbed one sleeve of the woman’s coat and pulled her out. Witnesses watched as the dog dragged the woman away just as the car exploded. Although both the woman and dog were burned, they both survived.
A man with a guide dog in Miami, Florida was mugged and severely beaten. Although the man had been left unconscious, his dog stayed by his side. When the man was found, the police suspected they knew who the attackers were. But, obviously, the man could not identify them. Nevertheless, they decided to call in one of the men they suspected and have him talk during a line-up. The dog lay quietly as each man in the line-up stepped up and spoke behind a two-way mirror. Could the blind man possibly recognize the voice? He could not. But when their suspect started to speak, the guide dog suddenly stood up, growled and snapped at the glass partition. Confronting their suspect with news that there was an “eye witness,” the man confessed and provided the names of the others involved in the attack.
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There are many marvelous stories where our canine companions have come to the rescue of their human partner. If you have one, please share it in the “Reply” section below. (Give the source or reference, if known.) If we find enough credible stories, perhaps we can do an anthology of them. Wouldn’t that make a wonderful book for all our dog-lovers? (Free, of course, to all contributors!)