Have you ever watched an old TV episode of Lassie? Each week that loyal collie performed some incredible task for Timmy’s family that left me wondering why our dog was sweet, but hardly capable of dashing off to bring help in an emergency or smart enough to save a child from a burning building. Lassie was a television staple for twenty years.
There were other animal shows too during the 1950s and 1960s, like The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. This series featured an orphan boy named Rusty and his trusty canine companion who were adopted by the soldiers at Fort Apache. The weekly episodes focused on their efforts to keep law and order in the wild west.
Then along came My Friend Flicka which took place on a Wyoming ranch. Based on the novel by the same name, the show involved a smart horse instead of a clever dog.
Flipper aired from 1964 to 1967 and introduced a personable dolphin that helped a ranger and his two young sons take charge of the animal life at Coral Key Park in Florida.
While these family shows revolved around fictional plot lines, there have been many real-life dramas with animals performing exceptional feats—often life-saving ones. Take Togo, for instance. In 1925, this sled dog and his owner Leonhard Seppala led the five and a half day “Great Race of Mercy” to bring life-saving serum to the city of Nome, Alaska which was ravaged by a diphtheria epidemic. Approximately one hundred fifty dogs died from exhaustion and cold during the race, but Togo survived and received national fame for his courageous achievement. So did Balto, another dog that took part in the same life-saving effort.
During World War II,numerous dogs played their part in protecting the troops. One of them was Rob, a British “parachute pup.” Rob participated in twenty parachute descents in Europe. His diligence as a guard dog prevented his assigned patrol from being captured and killed on several occasions.
More recently, a guide dog named Roselle made the news when she successfully lead her blind owner Michael Hingson and dozens of frantic people from the collapsing World Trade Center on 9/11.
Not all animal heroes are dogs, however. In 2006, Tommy, a shelter rescue cat, called 9-1-1 on speed dial when his owner suffered a series of strokes and fell out of his wheelchair. Tommy’s quick (trained) response saved the man’s life.
Mila, a white beluga whale, prevented a young woman from drowning.
A potbellied pig named LuLu is credited with saving the life of a woman who was having a heart attack—Lulu dashed into the street, lying down in the road until one driver stopped and called an ambulance.
Willie the parrot shrieked “Mama baby,” alerting the babysitter that the toddler in her care was choking to death. Interestingly enough, the bird’s owner later said that Willie had never used those words before.
God’s creatures have often shown remarkable courage and devotion in the face of danger. Courageous cats, devoted dogs and plucky parrots—no creature is too small or humble to be used for God’s purposes. Are you blessed with an animal hero in your life?
Shirley Raye Redmond is the author of Brave Animal Stories for Kids: 50 True Tales That Celebrate Creation. These 50 fun stories are perfect for young readers or family story time. Learn more here.