The storybooks abound with tales of heroic pets, and the amazing deeds they performed to save their masters from danger, or protect innocent children from harm. The classic TV series Lassie featured the classic “heroic” family dog, seemingly saving disaster-prone Timmy from a new and horrific fate in each episode. But few of us have personally been saved by a pet, or know a close friend who has. You almost have to wonder if such hero pets are just a topic for fiction writers, or if such animals really do save lives on a daily basis around the world.
As it happens, not only do hero pets really exist, but a number of organizations even collect their stories and recognize the outstanding cases for their deeds. Readers Digest magazine has a long standing “Hero Pets” feature, including stories of dogs and cats who have roused their families in time to escape from house fires, saved children from being attacked by animals, and many other admirable feats. Purina maintains their Animal Hall of Fame for Canadian hero pets, cataloging the most admirable stories submitted each year. Their immortalized heros include a dog who alerted his owner to her undiagnosed cancer in time to successfully treat it.
Hero pets also exist in far more day-to-day circumstances, especially in the ranks of trained aid and guide animals. A trained assistance dog can alert an epileptic owner of an impending seizure in time for the human to safely deal with the situation, or alert a diabetic or hypoglycemic person of a dangerous fluctuation in their blood sugar before serious damage occurs. Family dogs are renowned for not allowing harm to come to the family children, although unlike Lassie they’re more likely to protect their charges by staying with them in dangerous situations than running home to fetch their parents.
Does every beloved pet have the capacity to become a hero? A lucky owner will never be in a situation to find out, and it’s quite possible that not all animals possess the honed instincts or extreme loyalty to perform the greatest heroic feats. However, even the most pedestrian of pets still have the capacity to perform “everyday heroics,” like keeping their people company during times of stress and sadness, actually helping to lower their humans’ blood pressure and even prolong their lives, and helping to teach children loyalty and responsibility in ways their parents can’t. Perhaps every pet is a hero, whether we recognize it or not!