There is a saying that dogs are man’s best friends. These stories prove that dogs are inherently loving and loyal to owners, and in many cases, other living beings that they care about. Many of these dogs have put their own lives at risk to save the ones they love, and without them, lives would have been lost.
In 1925, in the small town of Nome, Alaska, a highly contagious disease called diphtheria was spreading among all the children. Symptoms of diphtheria begin with difficulty breathing and swallowing. Without the proper medication, this disease can lead to heart failure and paralysis.
At that time, Nome was incredibly remote. Even boats and airplanes could not reach these patients because there was so much ice, snow, and dangerous blizzard conditions. They were hundreds of miles away from the nearest medicine, and the only choice was to take sled dogs. Over 20 men led teams of dogs with sleds in freezing conditions that were as cold as -45 degrees Celsius (-50 °F) on top of winds at 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph).
The last man standing, Gunnar Kassen, mushed a team of dogs led by a Siberian husky named Balto. Even when Gunnar had no idea where they were going and wanted to give up in the awful conditions, Balto remembered the trail from past trips. He used his senses to bring the rest of the team to Anchorage, where the medicine was waiting for them.
Balto became an instant dog celebrity, with his photo on the cover of newspapers all over the country. There is even a statue of him standing in Central Park.
Balto and the dogs were sold to a circus show. But they were eventually rescued and lived out the rest of their lives at the Cleveland Zoo. When he died, Balto’s body was mounted and his remains are displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to this very day. Multiple movies have been made about Balto, and commemorative sled races in Alaska are still run in his memory.
Scottish terriers Jock and Annabelle were a male and female dog couple that lived together with their owner for five years in Orange, Massachusetts. When the woman who owned them was suddenly hospitalized in January 2016 and wasn’t at home to take care of them, Jock and Annabelle somehow managed to escape. They began walking around outside alone, possibly scavenging for something to eat.
Annabelle fell 9 meters (30 ft) down a steep embankment filled with trees and sharp branches. Seeing that his best friend’s life was in danger, the male dog, Jock, ran for help immediately. Desperate to save his partner’s life, he found a police officer and led him to the embankment where Annabelle had fallen.
They managed to rescue her. Then the two dogs were brought into the custody of animal control officers, who commented that it’s common for two dogs to form loving bonds with one another just like people. Jock has been called the “real-life Lassie,” comparing him to the TV dog that would often run to humans for help in a time of crisis.
In 2008, there was a house fire in Melbourne, Australia. The human family, a mother and three children, were able to escape with one dog before it was too late. Their second dog, Leo, a Jack Russell terrier, refused to leave the house while everyone else was evacuating.
When firefighters went into the house to extinguish the flames, they discovered that Leo had passed out from smoke inhalation because he was using his body to shield a litter of four newborn kittens from the fire. The mother cat was nowhere to be found, so Leo had bravely sacrificed himself to stay with the frightened infant animals.
When firefighters found Leo, they immediately brought him to the ambulance, where they gave him oxygen, heart massage, and water. Once he was revived, his immediate concern was for the kittens.
In the news footage, he licks them lovingly, as if he was protecting his own babies. The cat mother was eventually found as well. The very next day, Leo sat in front of the burned house, still protecting his home from any potential threats to his family.
In 2010, an 11-year-old boy named Austin from British Columbia, Canada, was in his backyard with his 18-month-old golden retriever named Angel. Austin was doing his chores—gathering firewood to bring inside—and the dog was staying close to him the entire time. Suddenly, a cougar appeared and Angel jumped to guard the boy from the oncoming attack.
Angel and the cougar began to fight to the death. Austin’s mother rushed the boy inside and called the police. A few minutes later, a police officer arrived to shoot and kill the cougar.
Everyone assumed that Angel was dead because they could see that the cougar was biting deeply into her neck and the dog losing a lot of blood. However, Angel was alive. The first thing she did was walk over to Austin to make sure he was okay.
Angel was taken to the veterinarian immediately. The vet confirmed that Angel would have died if the fight had gone on much longer. Thankfully, she recovered from her injuries and continues to live with her family today.
In 2015, Lucy was a six-year-old pit bull in Fort Myers, Florida, that lived with her owners, husband and wife Rodrick and Victoria, and their new baby. Rodrick’s mother, Lisa, and other members of the family were living in the same apartment complex.
Lisa had just returned from the hospital when she discovered that her ex-boyfriend, Walter, was waiting for her inside the apartment. An argument started when she told him to leave. In a fit of rage, Walter destroyed her TV with a crowbar, punched her in the face, and pulled a knife on Lisa.
Hearing her screams, Rodrick left his apartment to help his mother. Lucy, the pit bull, was by his side. Seeing that Lisa was in danger, Lucy lunged at Walter and began biting him. Walter stabbed the dog in the neck, and she began losing a lot of blood. But it did not stop her from fighting to protect her family.
While he was distracted by the dog, all three of Lisa’s sons were able to run to her aid, pinning Walter to the ground. One son was stabbed in the arm. The police arrived and arrested Walter, who was later found guilty of battery.
Sadly, Lucy, the pit bull, didn’t make it. News footage showed Lisa holding a towel to the dog’s neck, trying to stop the bleeding. Eventually, Lucy went into cardiac arrest and died the next day.
In South Carolina, two-year-old Peyton was being babysat by his grandparents in late November 2012. He was playing in the backyard with his grandparents’ dog, a purebred Australian shepherd named Ashepoo, when Peyton began running full speed into the woods. His grandfather was nearby, filling a tractor tire with air so that they could go on a trip together to pick out a Christmas tree. When the grandfather looked up, the toddler was gone.
Peyton’s parents and neighbors immediately formed a search party. Hundreds of volunteers, news trucks, and ambulances showed up to look for the missing boy. It was a cold night. So the longer he was missing, the less likely that Peyton would survive.
Members of the search team discovered Ashepoo on a trail. She barked at them, leading them toward a stranger’s barn. Peyton was asleep, curled up inside the barn for warmth. It was only four hours after he went missing, so Peyton was totally fine. But without the help of Ashepoo, it is not likely that the search team would have found the boy as quickly as they did.
4 The Argentinian Stray
In La Plata, Argentina, a newborn boy was abandoned in the street in 2008. It was a cold night, only 3 degrees Celsius (37 °F), when a stray female dog found the crying infant.
She picked up the baby in her mouth and carried him to her newborn puppies. Police found the baby after receiving reports of crying heard by neighbors. The stray dog had been sheltering the baby, keeping him warm with the rest of her litter.
Near midnight, the police delivered the newborn to the hospital, where doctors treated the baby for minor wounds from being carried in the dog’s mouth. Then they confirmed that the baby would not have survived that long alone, hungry, and exposed to the elements. The stray dog had saved the baby’s life.
A neighbor of the 14-year-old mother drove her to the hospital and forced her to confess to what she had done. Afterward, she was taken in for psychological evaluation and admitted to a mental hospital.
In December 2013, a blind man named Cecil Williams was standing in the New York City subway station when he fainted and fell onto the tracks. His guide dog, a black Labrador retriever named Orlando, jumped onto the tracks and barked loudly so that other people in the subway would notice what had happened.
There was a train headed toward them. But with Orlando standing on top of Cecil, the conductor saw them in time to attempt to stop the train. Both Cecil and Orlando were hit by the slow-moving train, but they only received minor injuries. If not for Orlando, Cecil would have been hit at full speed and most definitely would have been killed.
Cecil was told that he needed to give up Orlando for adoption soon because the dog was 11 years old, which is old enough to retire from guide work. After the incident, Cecil was allowed to keep Orlando as a pet. Cecil received a second dog, a yellow Labrador named Godiva, from Guiding Eyes For The Blind.
Ben and Hope from Charleston, South Carolina, entrusted their baby, Finn, to the care of a babysitter named Alexis Khan in 2012. They did a background check and went through an interview process, so they felt that they could trust Alexis.
Five months into the job, Ben and Hope’s dog, a black Labrador shepherd mix named Killian, began acting aggressively toward the babysitter, placing himself between her and the baby. This was not normal behavior for Killian. He was usually loving toward everyone, especially once he got to know them for as long as he had known Alexis.
Based on their dog’s behavior, Ben and Hope decided to secretly set up an iPhone to record audio in Finn’s bedroom for seven hours while they were gone. For nearly the entire recording, Hope could hear her son crying in his crib.
Alexis cursed and screamed at the baby to shut up. But she did not feed or comfort the baby or change his diaper. Ben and Hope could also hear the sound of slapping and then the odd sound of Finn’s voice as Alexis picked him up and violently shook him. In September 2013, Alexis Kahn was sentenced to 1–3 years in prison.
Businessman Peter Lee and his wife, Betty, were sailing around the world on their yacht. In 2008, they were 3 kilometers (2 mi) off the coast of Venezuela, which is a notoriously dangerous place. Tourists get robbed and kidnapped there on a daily basis.
Armed pirates in a small fishing boat were able to speed up to the Lees’ yacht and make their way aboard. The pirates began shooting at Peter. Then a group of men in their twenties tied up the husband and wife and pointed guns at them.
The Lees’ dog, Kankuntu, which they had adopted in Gambia, began biting the men in an effort to protect the Lees. Kankuntu was shot and stabbed, and the pirates left him for dead.
Still alive, Kankuntu crawled under the kitchen table and waited for the pirates to leave. It wasn’t long before the pirates had stolen everything of value and left the ship.
Then Peter tended to Kankuntu’s wounds, including removing the bullet from his leg. As soon as the Lees arrived at the nearest island, they were able to bring Kankuntu to the vet.
Fortunately, the dog survived. He still proudly guards the Lees’ boat, ready to fight off any intruders.
Shannon Quinn is a writer and entrepreneur in the Philadelphia area. If you are interested in more of her work, you can find her here.