We’ve all seen videos or Facebook posts about animal heroes, courageous critters who save people’s lives, alert family members to fires or intruders, K9 and military dogs who sniff out drugs and bombs, and search and rescue canines who find lost children and elderly people with dementia. Each and every one of these creatures are brave and persevering. Their loyalty is beyond measure.
Many such dogs, military heroes, search and rescue champions, service stars, and others, are honored annually through American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards; the program is telecast each fall. Voting for Hero Dog of the Year continues through September 5.
Perhaps you know a courageous critter – a dog that rescued your child or a neighbor’s child from a situation, such as drowning. Maybe your grandmother’s cat alerted her to a fire. Or, you’ve read a story about such a brave pet.
I lived with one. No, she didn’t save the family from an intruder nor did she pull someone to safety. Her name was Sage, and she lived with blindness most of her life. Instead of rescuing people from danger, she courageously lived life, navigating stairs she couldn’t see, whether at home or in a strange building; she jumped up on furniture without having the security of knowing she’d land on the bed, couch, or chair – she couldn’t see and therefore, she bravely tackled the attempt. Sage inspired me, and she inspired others. Through classroom trips and library visits, Sage encouraged children who faced challenges, whether physical or emotional – her life as a blind dog epitomized courageous and perseverance. She lived both daily.
I wrote stories and books about Sage’s life and her impact upon others. One story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? Titled “Seeing with the Heart,” I share the impact Sage had on some of the children we met during classroom visits. Her ability to sense when a child needed comfort touched many hearts, including my own, and her kindness and triumph over her disability impacted many kids.
My husband and I adopted Sage in 2001; we weren’t told, and we didn’t realize she was losing her sight. Although we were shocked when our veterinarian told us, “I’m sorry but your dog is going blind; she has an irreversible disease known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy,” we came to accept the outcome. We expected a depressed, dejected dog, but Sage’s courage and perseverance arose, and she tackled many obstacles, which inspired many. That special springer spaniel was the catalyst for me to become a strong advocate for pet adoption and to become an author. My first book, Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness, was created to encourage children to face their own obstacles with the tenacity Sage exhibited. Five years later, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog, was published; this devotional-style publication discusses the many lessons I and others learned from Sage.
We humans can learn great lessons from the pets in our lives as well as from those who don’t share our household. Animals can inspire us, if our hearts are open to the lessons and encouragement.
Want to read about my delightful dog named Sage? Pick up a copy of one of my books about her!
Learn more about and purchase Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness here.
Learn more about and purchase Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog here.
View a video about my brave springer spaniel Sage and the books about her below.
America’s Memorial Day arrives on Monday, May 28. This is a time to remember the sacrifice of the country’s military men and women, those who gave the ultimate – their very lives. Over the course of time, more than 600,000 service men and women have died during times of war, including more than 2,200 in Afghanistan, more than 58,000 in the Vietnam War, nearly 37,000 in Korea, and more than 530,000 during World Wars 1 and 2. In addition to military personnel, civilians were also killed during these conflicts.
Animals have been, and still are, used during wartime. Horses and dogs have primarily served, and plentiful numbers of them have lost their lives. Other animal species, including pigeons, dolphins, camels, and mules have also served during wartime. Some carried messages, some carried humans – all have worked, and continue to work, in service to their country’s forces. They are often the unsung heroes of war. The U.S. War Dog Memorial, located in New Jersey, was originally established in 2006 to honor dogs and their handlers of the Vietnam War. However, it’s become the symbol of dogs who have served, and continue to serve, the U.S. military in all conflicts. Some states, including Tennessee and Colorado, also have, or plan to have, a war dog memorial.
Times of war are not the only time that animals serve and are looked upon as heroes. There are plenty of incidents in which dogs, cats, and other animals have saved humans. For example, Kahn, a Doberman who had only been with his adopted family for a few days, saved a toddler from a snake, and Pudding, a rescued cat, who saved his owner experiencing a diabetic seizure. Animals save people from drowning, from intruders, and from illness and accidents. Many do these heroic acts at the cost of their own lives, including K9 police dogs and military service dogs.
As we take time during Memorial Day weekend, especially on the day itself, to remember the people who gave their lives for our country and our freedoms (and the freedoms of others), let us also remember the numerous animal who also have given their lives in service. Whether in the military, on police forces, or living in homes with human families, these animals showcase devotion, loyalty, love, and friendship – character traits of noble and beloved animal heroes.
The American Humane Association presents the Hero Dog Award later this year. Visit their website to learn more about the dogs up for the award in 2018; you can cast your vote before July 11, 2018: http://herodogawards.org/vote/.
You’ve likely read about or heard about them, one may even live in your home. These are the heroes, superheroes, in fact, but only one that I know of made it onto the TV/Movie screen: UnderDog. What a name – not SuperDog, BatDog, or AvengerDog, the name was UnderDog – not much of a super hero name.
Yet, for those animals who save their humans’ lives, these pets are superheroes, such as the parrot who saved a child from choking and a cat who saved her family from carbon monoxide poisoning. Earlier this year, a German shepherd dog was badly beaten and shot several times protecting a teenager from home intruders; miraculously, the dog survived his injuries, and received a commendation.
From overseas military combat dogs like Layka to cats like Schnautzie from Montana, pets save lives, sniff out bombs and cancer, and find lost children. Hero pets lead the blind, bring smiles to hospital patients, help children read, and give people comfort during illness or grief. Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs travel the country during times of trauma, such as hurricanes and school shootings. Our own pets provide comfort when we’re sick or stressed. A cold nose or warm purr soothes us, making our own pets our own personal heroes.
Every year American Humane presents the Hero Dog Awards, honoring canines who come to the rescue. These superheroes may be police, fire, or military dogs, lead the blind and help the deaf, serve as therapy animals in hospitals, or inspire us with their persevering spirits as emerging heroes. This week, American Humane allows the public to vote for the hero dogs which, later this year, will be recognized for their endeavors and awarded for their heroism. Cast your vote for the Hero Dogs of the Year by visiting this website: http://herodogawards.org/vote/. Voting closes on Wednesday, April 25.
Your dog, cat, ferret, or parrot may not have an award on the wall or shelf, may not have saved yours or a family member’s physical life, but most of us with pets recognize the joy and wonder of having a pet share our lives. Who is your hero pet? Leave a comment about why you feel your pet “rescued” you or, in your eyes and heart, is your hero. And, don’t forget to vote for the American Humane Hero Dog Awards!
February is known for two main things: Valentine’s Day and Hallmark Movie love-stories.
Love is a Hallmark movie… well, not for everyone, and certainly not for every companion animal. Pets are called companion animals for a reason – to provide companionship to people, to be devoted, loving, faithful… and they would be, if only we let them. Instead, many cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, even turtles and lizards are mistreated, neglected, and abused. Where is their Hallmark Valentine hero/heroine?
In truth, humans and animals share this one thing in common: rejection. The person you love and trusted abandons you, mistreats you, breaks your heart and spirit. Yet, many people and pets have another thing in common: resiliency. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, as they say, and carry on. That perseverance may take months, even years, but when we dig deep inside ourselves and we let others help and encourage us, we discover that fortitude and we move ahead to a brighter future.
For animals as well as us, that brighter future involves compassionate, kind people. When you watch a Hallmark movie, friends surround the broken-hearted, hurt individual, encouraging them to be open to love again. And, surprise, surprise, s/he comes along! That can be true for pets as well. Rescues, SPCAs, Humane Societies, and others step forward to lift pets’ spirits, saving their lives from abuse and neglect, and then prepare them for adoption. But, there needs to be more adopters, more heroes and heroines to help the light shine more deeply into the spirits of those animals cast-away, those treated not just poorly, but many times cruelly.
Can you be an animal’s Hallmark Valentine this year?
Five years ago, my husband and I adopted a springer/cocker mix named Mary. She wasn’t abused or neglected; in fact, she was deeply cared for by her previous owner. Sadly, that person died, and Mary needed a new loving family. Greg and I answered the call, and we have been her Valentine ever since! She is devoted to us and she has also impacted others, serving sometimes as a library read-to-the-dog companion, nestled among a group of children and giving them affection as well as courage. Her stories which I’ve written take kids on adventures and teach them lessons like kindness, friendship, and joy. I love sharing Mary with others and teaching them the value of adoption.
Then, there’s Jeremiah, whom we adopted last fall. He came from a puppy mill, serving as a stud for three years. He lost 28 teeth due to poor nutrition and came to us from a rescue still timid and uncertain about living in a house. Now, five months later, he realizes kindness and compassion can come from human beings, and he’s settled in well, with Mary as his best friend. He walks proudly on a leash, dashes through our fenced-in backyard with joy, and cuddles next to me on the couch with thankfulness on his face. His Valentine’s Day gift this year is a warm home and caring people (plus a canine BFF!)
Even if we, as a man or woman, have been rejected by human love, there’s a way to share our love. Numerous animals – dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, and others – are waiting for their special Valentine. Nearly 1.5 million dogs and cats die in kill-shelters every year, and more than 10,000 animal mill facilities confine creatures (especially dogs and cats) simply for the act of breeding. They lack socialization and medical care. Several rescues, such as National Mill Dog Rescue and Hearts United for Animals, take in these animals and care for them while searching for loving, permanent homes for them to call their own, i.e., for their special Valentine.
Find your four-footed Valentine this month, knowing that creature will be devoted to you for its life, and then make some popcorn and sit on the couch together while enjoying some Hallmark movies!
NOTE: The Hallmark Channel features several films in which animals play important roles. Check out titles such as Like Cats and Dogs; Love at First Bark; Walking the Dog; and Eat, Play, Love -- some of these are scheduled this month and others in March. Enjoy, and especially enjoy your furry Valentine!
They conduct search and rescue. They serve in the military. They lead the blind and alert the hard-of-hearing. They comfort people in crisis, visit the hospitalized and those in hospice care; they even provide a soothing balm for us, their guardians. They survive abuse and neglect to become someone’s beloved pets. They are animal heroes!
Images of the dogs searching for the trapped and injured on 9/11 and during last week’s earthquake in Mexico resonate in our hearts and souls. From fires in homes and cresting ocean waves to hospital rooms and school bullying problems, dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs and other animals provide rescue, comfort, security, and therapy to many humans, their own as well as strangers. From the military veteran suffering from PTSD or physical disability to the child lost in the woods or the trapped earthquake victim, animals respond to the needs of people as they fulfill their roles of service, comfort or search and rescue. They are K-9 officers protecting communities and military service dogs sniffing out bombs and bad guys.
Every fall, the American Humane Association partners with the Hallmark Channel to present The Hero Dog Awards. From a service dog named Roselle who guided her blind owner and others out of a building during 911 to an abused pit bull named Hooch, canines have been celebrated for their heroic story for more than five years – and their stories tug at the heartstrings!
This year’s Hero Dog Award winner’s story is no different. American Humane recently announced the 2017 winner: a one-eared pit bull named Abigail. A dog-fighting survivor who was rescued after nearly being euthanized, Abigail is a “spokesdog” for dog-fighting rescues and for forgiveness and second chances. She’s also a fashionista, thanks to her human-mom who dresses her in scarves and headbands to help cover some of her scars. Many nominated Hero Dogs have overcome the odds of abuse or neglect.
Cats are also known to be heroes. Last year the BBC reported on several cat heroes, including one that detected cancer in her special human and another who came to the rescue of the young boys he lives with.
Hero animals – whether they do incredible feats of bravery or are simply the companions of the household, they all deserve to be called the Heroes of Our Hearts!
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.