NEW YORK — The phrase is as old as the sun — "man's best friend," exemplified by TV stars like Lassie, have always captured our hearts for the heroics that only a human-canine bond can create. But these extraordinary feats of loyalty are not just for the silver screen. Ordinary dogs often perform acts of heroism — just ask Calamity Jane.
This foster dog was still recovering from having her leg amputated — a delayed consequence of an old gunshot wound — and giving birth to a litter of seven, when she stopped a violent home invasion at a neighbor's residence during her walk with foster mom Shar Pauley. Calamity Jane is certainly a hero, but she is not alone.
"We received almost 100 nominations, which is pretty amazing when you realize that all of these dogs are responsible for saving at least one person's life," said Colin Berry, Director of Innovations for the third annual "Dogs of Valor" contest, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.
Nominations came from 31 states and have been narrowed down to 10 finalists. The "People's Hero" award is now open to the public's voting until Friday, March 12 at 5 p.m. EST. While official winners will be announced on Monday, March 15, the Valor Dog of the Year will be chosen by a panel of celebrities.
The panel includes Kristin Bell, who played a mysterious character with special powers on the hit show “Heroes;” Sally Pressman, whose character on Lifetime’s “Army Wives” adopted a stray dog who saved a soldier’s life in Iraq; and Jay Kopelman, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who brought a puppy back from Iraq and wrote “From Baghdad With Love” recalling the experience.
"The Dogs of Valor Awards are one way the HSUS celebrates animals and the incredible bond they share with humans," Berry told Zootoo Pet News. "In this case, we're honoring dogs who have acted beyond their own needs and wants, demonstrating that dogs are intelligent creatures who have the ability to reason and act courageously on behalf of others."
Calamity Jane is only one such nominee and finalist, and nine other heroic animals share the honor with her. Meet this year's Dogs of Valor Finalists:
Around 2:30 a.m. on a cold February night, Jamie Szenher, Linda Hamilton, and her two sons were startled awake by Benson, their 5-year-old rescued Golden Retriever. His bark was unusually intense. While he usually slept in a back room with their other three dogs, that night he was positioned on a couch in the front of the house, barking at flames that were shooting out of their neighbor’s house across the street.
When Hamilton and her family woke and saw the glow of the flames, they immediately rushed to their neighbor’s house and began pounding on the door, yelling for them to get out. They finally woke the family, who had just enough time to grab their children, 2 and 4, and escape.
The fire, caused by a malfunctioning space heater, destroyed the house as well as the family’s two cars.
Jeffrey Pattie was enjoying the smooth sound of classic rock when his 8-month-old Doberman pinscher, Jackson, began crying and running through the house with his hackles raised. For nearly an hour and a half, Jeffrey tried to figure out what was wrong. He ruled out a bee sting and tried to distract the dog with food. Instead of eating, Jackson tore through the screen door, trying to get outside.
More confused, Jeffrey called a friend who suggested he let Jackson outside because he would likely show Jeffrey what the problem was. Jeffrey opened the door, and a frenzied Jackson bolted outside and began jumping up on the back fence. When Jeffrey went to investigate, he heard a faint cry for help. He then saw his 90-year-old neighbor lying on the ground underneath a door than had fallen on her as she had stepped outside to do a few chores. Jeffrey called out for a neighbor to check on the woman as he dialed 911.
Jackson sat by the fence and calmly watched the EMT’s as they treated the fragile woman, who they estimated had been lying outside for several hours. They said that without Jackson, she may not have survived.
Two years ago, Dominic Wiederin discovered that he was violently allergic to a host of foods and other things he loved. Since then, he has been rushed to the hospital more than 100 times for severe allergic reactions.
In November, the 19-year-old fell asleep in a recliner after returning home from the hospital. As usual, Jobe, the 8-year-old Hungarian Vizsla who Dominic had rescued from the side of the road a few years before was close by his side.
Around 3 a.m., Jobe began to howl and bark as he charged down the hallway. Dominic’s mom, Teresa, got up and met Jobe at her bedroom door to see what was wrong. Jobe turned around and ran back down the hallway. Teresa followed and saw Dominic struggling for air. He gasped, saying he couldn’t breathe. They rushed him to the hospital and discovered that Dominic had inadvertently visited a home that had cats, to which he is highly allergic.
This marked the third time that Jobe has alerted the Wiederin's to Dominic's allergic reactions in the middle of the night- with the first two incidents being so severe that Dominic was unable to speak.
It was 4 a.m. when Kenai, a 14-year-old Bernese mountain dog mix, started to whine and bark. One of her owners, Todd Smarr, heard Kenai and immediately felt there must be something wrong. Todd, along Kenai’s other owner Michelle Sewald, and their friend Karen Hull, were staying in the basement of a vacation house during a weekend getaway with family and friends.
When he got up to comfort Kenai, Karen stood up and said she didn’t feel well. Todd woke his wife, Michelle, so she could help Karen, and right away they all realized that none of them felt well. That’s when Michelle collapsed into Todd’s arms, unconscious.
They rushed upstairs, woke their friends, and after a quick discussion, realized there must be a carbon monoxide leak. The seven adults, two children, and four dogs, escaped to fresh air.
Authorities determined the leak was coming from the stove and the highest threat had been in the basement. Todd was treated at a local hospital and Michelle and Karen were flown to a hospital in Denver and treated in a hyperbaric chamber.
Although he typically barks to alert if someone is around, Max’s incessant barking one August day seemed to indicate something different.
The Labrador retriever’s owner, Dr. Michael Szap, stepped outside to investigate. When he didn’t see anything unusual, he knocked on his neighbor’s door to see if she had noticed anything amiss. At that point, Max, who was in the Szap’s backyard, continued to bark and began jumping on the fence.
It was then that they noticed his neighbor’s 89-year-old mother, Tina DiLuca, lying face down in her garden. It was a sweltering 91 degrees, and Tina was only able to speak softly. Blocked from view by a fence, it is unknown how long Tina’s fall would have gone unnoticed without Max.
Tina was admitted to the hospital and treated for four fractured ribs and a few abrasions. Tina has since recovered and invited Max to her 90th birthday party.
Like most other nights, Priscilla Elit made her way into the bathroom to take her medication before going to bed. Meanwhile, Julie, her sister and housemate, had already gone to her room for the night.
Without warning, Priscilla suffered a stroke and collapsed. That’s when Milky Way, the 5-year-old terrier/corgi mix who had been by her side, bolted across the hall and began wildly scratching at Julie’s bedroom door. When Julie opened the door she heard her sister’s faint cries for help. She rushed to the bathroom to find Priscilla lying in the middle of the floor and immediately called 911.
Thankfully, because of Milky Way’s swift actions, help arrived quickly and Priscilla’s life was saved.
While his wife was at church, 71-year-old Nick Argenti had decided to relax in his backyard and enjoy the warm July morning when he suddenly collapsed. As he fell to the ground, the tube became disconnected from the oxygen tank he depended on full time due to a serious respiratory condition, and he lost consciousness.
Fortunately, Porkchop, his 9-year-old beagle-dachshund mix, was there and began barking and baying at his side. Argenti’s neighbor heard and immediately realized there was something different about Porkchop’s tone. That’s when she looked out her window and saw Nick lying face down on the ground.
She called 911 while her husband and another neighbor ran to check on Nick. When help arrived, Nick was taken to the hospital where he spent two nights recovering.
Sadly, Nick passed away in December 2009. The HSUS wishes to extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, June, and the rest of the Argenti family.
Prozac’s first heroic intervention occurred while visiting Fred Berman’s extended family. One day, the family heard the 3-year-old Bichon Frise-poodle mix barking from their Aunt Dorothy’s bedroom. A family member rushed in and found the 94-year-old woman gasping for air.
About two months later, Prozac intervened again. This time, Carol Spade was dog-sitting Prozac when around 2 a.m. one morning, she and her granddaughter were awakened by Prozac’s incessant barking. She was used to Prozac’s bark, but this time it sounded different.
Carol then heard snapping and popping sounds coming from the attic and at first assumed it was a wild animal, but quickly realized that it was a fire. She and her granddaughter were able to escape with Prozac, just before the home was fully engulfed in flames.
When Yolanda Segovia’s neighbor asked her to watch a stray dog she found, both assumed it would just be for the day. But Yolanda’s sons, 10-year-old Azaiah and 21-year-old Christian, quickly bonded with the terrier mix and named him RaeLee (pronounced Riley). Over the next four days, they continued to search for the dog’s owner.
One Saturday, Azaiah went to his dad’s house while RaeLee and Christian—who has Down syndrome, a history of seizures and other health issues—sat down to watch T.V. Yolanda was outside watering her plants when RaeLee’s barking caught her attention. Yolanda went to check on him, assuming he just wanted to play or join her outside. Instead, RaeLee ran to her, then turned and ran toward Christian’s room. Yolanda followed and found Christian slumped over, skin purple and blood streaming from his nose and mouth.
Yolanda called 911 and performed CPR until he began breathing again. The neurologist said that had she not intervened when she did, Christian would have choked on his own blood.
Calamity Jane was still recovering from having her leg amputated following an old gunshot wound and giving birth to a litter of seven puppies when her foster mom, Shar Pauley, took her and the family’s other two dogs outside for a break on a cold January night.
Suddenly, Calamity Jane bolted to the neighbor’s yard, hackles raised, and began barking and growling with ferocious intensity. Shar then heard a car door slam and watched a car speed out of her neighbor’s driveway. She grabbed the dogs and hurried back inside.
Minutes later, the neighbor came to their door and asked them to call 911. His family and guests, including two children, had been held at gunpoint for close to an hour during a violent home invasion. But when the intruders heard Calamity Jane, they yelled to one another that there were people outside and quickly fled the terror stricken home.
To vote visit: HumaneSociety.org/DogsOfValor