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5 Heroic Dog Breeds
All dogs are loyal, all dogs are faithful, and a lot of us are lucky enough to have heroic dogs, too.
If my dog wanders away from me during one of our strolls on the beach, all it takes is a cry for help and she comes running to save me. I think she is a real hero, but there are a few breeds that often find themselves in heroic situations.
What makes a dog a hero? A willingness to sacrifice his life to save the humans he lives with, or sometimes to even save those he does not know.
Here are the five breeds most often cited for performing heroic acts.
The Famous Dog Breed Heroes
German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd Dog
All of these breeds have been heroes, over and over. Some of them are listed among the most faithful dogs, and some of them are among the most loyal. This breed actually makes it in both lists, and many of his actions make him a hero.
Part of the reason that he makes all of the lists is that the GSD is one of the most common dog breeds. That is not all there is to it, however. GSDs are one of the most popular dog breeds, year after year, because of their faithfulness, loyalty, and their ability to perform heroic acts.
They have an impressive list of heroism. There are way too many stories to even tell, but a recent story (2013) from Argentina caught my eye. A GSD barked to attract help from the people in the house and then jumped in a pool and saved a four year old girl that had fallen in.
That is heroism. German Shepherd Dogs live about 10 or 11 years if healthy, and for all their acts of heroism they deserve good care.
Everyone remembers Lassie and naturally assumes that the Collie is going to make the list of the most heroic dog breed. This great dog breed does not make the list just based on a TV show, however.
Back in the early 1950s a large dog food manufacturer started awarding a “dog hero of the year”. The award was given for courageous dogs that saved lives and property, and the Collie has won more often than any other breed of dog.
The award first honored Tang, a Collie who saved several children from being hit by cars. My favorite, however, is Duke, a dog that faced that thing that dogs fear most, fire. The 10 year old child in his household was burning trash when the wind blew and her skirt caught on fire. The girl ran to the house, making the fire worse, but the dog grabbed the skirt, ripped it off, and in the process saved her from being burned or killed.
Duke was burned in the mouth, but he was a real hero.
If all heroic activities took place in water, this breed would definitely be the most famous. Newfies are well known for their ability to jump in a lake or river, withstand the cold, and use their webbed feet to swim strongly and save the human that needs help.
Many families have chosen Newfoundlands because they are willing to watch after and save any kids that get into trouble. One of the best known stories about a Newfoundland, though, is from the sinking of the Titanic.
Several dogs were on that ship on her maiden voyage back in 1912. One, a Newfie named Rigel, was locked in the kennels with twelve other dogs when the ship hit the iceberg. A few of the small dogs were saved in lifeboats but since there were not enough for everyone the big dogs were left on the ship to die.
The Newfie swam around in the cold water and eventually stayed close to one of the lifeboats. There was not enough space to haul him into the boat, and the freezing passengers of the lifeboat assumed the dog would not be able to withstand the cold.
A few hours after the Titanic sunk, the ship Carpathia began saving the survivors. Since it was still dark, the sailors aboard the Carpathia could not see what they were doing and were heading straight for the lifeboat. It was going to be struck and sunk, and the people aboard were too cold and weak to alert the ship.
The swimming dog was not too weak. He started barking and the Carpathia stopped before striking the lifeboat. They were able to follow the dog´s barking, save the survivors, and of course haul the dog up into the rescue ship.
A crewman from the Carpathia adopted the dog, the hero of the Titanic.
Like all of the hero dog breeds, there is almost too much to choose from when discussing the amazing Golden Retriever. A simple web search will reveal hundreds of stories that I could not include here.
My favorite Golden story is a simple one from England. A young woman was attacked by a gang and only her Golden saved her life.
The dog, normally gentle and quiet, was being walked by her owner when she was attacked. The dog realized something was wrong, reacted, and bit one of the gang members on the thigh, scaring off the others before giving chase.
When she was able to leave the hospital, the woman reported that the Golden never left her side. She is pampering the hero too, of course.
There are a lot of other great dog breeds that are heroic. The St. Bernard was a heroic dog that served in the mountains and saved numerous travelers. Australian Cattle Dogs and Border Collies are energetic, intelligent, and there are several great hero stories about those breeds.
In fact, probably the only dogs that are not heroic are the small dogs that are usually not big enough to act as heroes. They might want to, they just can´t because of their physical limitations. A 10 pound Maltese cannot break down the door when there is a fire, and a 5 pound Chihuahua cannot guard the family, no matter how much he barks.
One big dog that is able to fulfill the role of hero is the Labrador Retriever. There are almost as many good stories about Labs as Goldens; my favorite is the story about the dogs in Wisconsin that saved their owner after a terrible automobile crash.
The owner usually locked her dogs up in the back but for some reason she decided to leave them free inside her SUV. When she crashed, her skull was fractured and she lost consciousness—the dogs were not hurt.
One of the dogs stayed with her while two others ran for help. They barked and scratched to attract attention, but when the farmer came out on his porch and did not hurry to help, one of the dogs grabbed his sleeve and pulled him far enough down the driveway so that he could see the wreck.
He called for help. The rescue team later said that it was only the efforts of the dogs that saved the woman´s life.
Her dogs were inducted into the Hall of Dog Hero Fame in Wisconsin. They were real heroes, like a lot of Labs.
When choosing a dog, there are a lot of things to look for. You can choose a dog because you like his looks, because you like his energy and intelligence, or even because you like the color of his eyes.
If you are looking for a dog, be sure to check your local animal shelter before searching further. If you want a special breed and they don’t have what you are looking for, check the website petfinder.com.
If you only want a puppy, visit a dog show and talk with some breeders. DO NOT buy your puppy from a pet shop or some backyard breeder that will not even show you the pup´s mother. You will be encouraging the type of irresponsible breeders that keep dogs locked up in “puppy mills”.
Whatever you are looking for, good luck. Who knows? Maybe your next dog will be the hero you were searching for.
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© 2014 Dr Mark