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.
We celebrate many things in America during the month of November: Veteran's Day; Thanksgiving; National Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month; and Hero Dogs (although I'd like to say “Hero Pets”!)
Recently the American Humane Association honored dogs and their people during the Hero Dogs Awards, celebrating dogs in the line of duty for law enforcement and the military as well as those canines assisting the blind, the disabled, and many others.
Those of us who are pet lovers enjoy an inspiring hero pet tale, and there's no doubt that the Dog Hero Awards inspire people. Yet, on average nearly three million animals are euthanized every year in animal shelters across the United States. Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, parakeets and many other animals die each day while thousands of others are rescued from kill-shelters, puppy and cat mills, and other death traps. Oftentimes, these animals are older and have been used as breeders for people seeking “easy money” through the propagation of litters. National Mill Dog Rescue specifically rescues puppy mill dogs, both young and old, that have been confined in deplorable conditions; volunteers travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, to bring safety and love to dogs that are neglected and used, many of whom have never had the pads of their feet touch green grass. These rescued, mostly scared dogs are groomed, loved, cuddled, oftentimes for the first time. These rescuers, many of whom are volunteers, are the true heroes, saving animals from exploitation, neglect, even danger.
Saving life for some is the 'game of life.' Whether a hero on the battlefield, as many of our military men and women are, a hero rescuing abandoned, neglected, or unwanted pets as are those involved with animal rescue and welfare, or those creatures who save their 'families,' both humans and other animals, from traumas such as fires, drownings, mental and physical disabilities, or intruders … these heroes need to be recognized, honored, and celebrated. People who adopt pets, especially those who adopt the older or disabled, are also heroes. November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. Each of us can be a hero to a senior pet in need of a new, loving home. My husband and I recently adopted an 8-year-old Pekingese mix named Lemons; he is still settling in and there are a few issues because he was “an only child” with his previous person, but when Lem licks my cheek with doggie kisses when I return home from work, I know the issues can be resolved.
There are many benefits to adopting an older pet, including (1) most are already house/litterbox trained, and (2) what you see (in size and personality) is what you get. Yet, older animals are less likely to be adopted and therefore may be the ones most often euthanized. You can be a hero and save a life by adopting a senior pet this month! I’m so glad we did! (and this little guy isn’t the only senior pet we’ve adopted over the years…. and likely won’t be the last).
Just as our military men and women are heroes, fighting, often struggling, and dying to keep the rest of us free and safe, so, too, can we 'regular folk' be heroes by saving the lives of animals around the globe. Adopt, volunteer, educate, advocate – step up and be a hero today! The love, dedication, and truthfully the actual life of an animal, is in your hands... mine, too. Let's be the advocate heroes for animals in need today!
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.