Dog Heroes

When it comes to dog heroes, there isn't a prototype. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes. The only signature is the human-animal bond. Whether it's rescuing a drowning youngster from a nearby pond or helping predict an owner's impending heart malfunction, the animal is a hero in the eyes of the beholder(s).

Most acts of heroism are marked by a saber-sharp reactionary sense by the animal of a clear and present danger either at the moment or minutes away.

Since 1954, Americans have recognized a Dog Hero of the Year in a contest sponsored by several pet-food companies. But numerous animal-welfare organizations have honored their canine heroes, too.

Here are several vignettes of winners:

But, as Patches was in danger of drowning, it was Scott's turn to return the favor by pulling the dog onto the dock. Scott's badly injured legs were useless, however, and he fell back into the lake. Patches went back in, seized him by the hair and towed him back to the dock again. His cries for help went unheard, so Scott began crawling up a rocky 300-foot slope toward his house until he was able to alert his wife. He remained hospitalized 25 days, undergoing surgeries on both legs. He credits his survival to Patches.

Dakota has become Lingenfelter's early-warning system prior to an angina attack. About 2 to 5 minutes before an attack is coming – which tends to be three to four times a month – the dog pushes on his master's chest with his back. "I hold on to him until the pain passes," explains Lingenfelter. "He has taught me to pick up on his breathing rate to prevent me from hyperventilating when the pain is intense. In other words, he's saved my life several times over." Dakota's ability to detect an oncoming attack also gives his master time to take his medication and prevent major damage."

P.S.: Sept. 23-29, 2001 was National Dog Week, with the theme "Man's Best Friend." These heroes and numerous others each year were lifesavers and once again demonstrated the incredible strength of the human-animal bond.