10 Times Animals Saved Human Lives, Sometimes at the Cost of Their Own

Humans and animals have a unique relationship. Despite the dissimilarities, we are united by our common need for love and connection. Though animals are often considered inferior in terms of intelligence and understanding by many, they have time and again surprised us with how much they could care and learn. The animals that we have mentioned below are both domestic and wild, yet they equally displayed such unaffected kindness towards humans, especially when they are in danger. Here are some of those times in which animals saved human lives, even if that meant seriously maiming themselves or even dying.

1. When his disabled owner was struck by a car, service dog Endal pulled the unconscious owner into recovery position, retrieved the phone from under the car, fetched and covered him with a blanket, and ran to the nearby hotel to get help.

Endal
Image Source: Allen and Endal

Endal was a pedigree yellow Labrador retriever with a debilitating joint condition in both of his front legs. Though his condition cast doubts on his ability to be a service dog, his intelligence and problem solving capabilities allowed him to be fully qualified. In the late 1990s, he became the service dog for a disabled ex-Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Allen Parton who suffered serious head injuries that resulted in 50 percent memory loss and inability to make new memories for more than two days.

Endal learned to interpret Parton’s sign language and would bring him a hat if he touched his head, or a razor if he touched his face. According to Parton, Endal even learned to pull the bath’s plug if he fell unconscious while bathing and put him in recovery position before hitting emergency button on the telephone. Endal could also use ATM cards (first dog to do so), retrieve items from supermarket shelves, and operate lifts and washing machines.

In 2001, when Parton was knocked out of his wheelchair by a passing car outside a hotel, Endal performed the basic care actions and barked at the hotel to alert them for assistance. When nothing happened, he ran to the hotel and got help. Endal received many awards, records, and achievements, including “Dog of the Millennium,” and was filmed by as many as 340 film crews around the world.(source)

2. In 2006, a man suffered from a seizure and fell off his wheelchair unable to call for help when his cat Tommy, whom he trained to speed dial 911 with uncertain results, did press the speed dial button. Police received a silent call and arrived to find him incapacitated and his cat by the phone.

Ginger Cat and Telephone
Image Source: Revital Salomon, timak

Gary Rosheisen of Columbus, Ohio, suffered from a series of mini-strokes and had osteoporosis. Believing a cat would make a great companion and help lower his blood pressure, he brought in Tommy, an orange and tan tomcat. Rosheisen tried to train Tommy to press the 911 speed dial on his phone in case of emergencies considering his frequent seizures, though he was unsure if Tommy learned anything as there was no chance to test.

In 2006, Rosheisen had a seizure in his bedroom and fell over the floor from his wheelchair. Unfortunately, he wasn’t wearing his medical alert necklace. The pain from osteoporosis and his impaired balance due to previous strokes made it impossible for him to get up to reach the cord above his pillow that alerted paramedics.

However, Tommy did press the speed dial button on the telephone in the living room. When the police received the call no one answered. When they called back and no one answered again, the police were dispatched to Rosheisen’s home proving Tommy did learn.(source)

3. When a bomb fell into her owner’s house during the Blitz, a Great Dane named Juliana diffused it by relieving herself on it. She earned a Blue Cross Medal for her actions.

A Great Dane and an Incendiary Bomb
Image Source: Jerrie Hurd, Ian Dunster

Juliana actually received two Blue Cross Medals in her lifetime. The first was in 1941, when the Germans were dropping incendiary bombs over London and she put out the one that fell on the house she and her masters were living in by urinating on it. The second time was in 1944, when she alerted her master’s family about the fire in their shoe shop.(source)

4. In 1986, when a five-year-old boy fell into a gorilla enclosure and lost consciousness, a gorilla named Jambo stood between him and the other gorillas in a protective gesture, even stroking his back. The incident created a positive perception of gorillas among the public.

Jambo, the Gorilla
Image Source: John Catterall

Jambo, named after the Swahili word for “hello”, was a gorilla born in Switzerland and sold to Columbus Zoo in 1950. He was raised in captivity and after a series of moves to other zoos, lived in Jersey Zoo in Trinity, Jersey. On August 31, 1986, Jambo gained international fame for protecting the boy Levan Merritt. When the boy regained consciousness and began to cry, Jambo and the other gorillas panicked and retreated. Two zookeepers and a paramedic soon rescued the boy from the enclosure. The whole incident was recorded on home video and photographed by the visitors.(source)

5. In 2012, a Pit Bull named Lilly saved her unconscious owner from an oncoming freight train. She frantically pulled the woman off the tracks even though the train couldn’t stop in time. Lilly saved the woman but lost her leg.

Lilly, the Pit Bull
Image Source: lillytheheropitbull

Lilly was given to a woman named Christine Spain as a therapy dog by her son a few years before the incident. He rescued Lilly and hoped she would help his mother overcome alcoholism. On the midnight of May 3, Spain fell unconscious on a railway track while walking home from a friend’s place in Shirley, Massachusetts, when a freight train was hurtling towards them.

The driver saw Lilly frantically pulling Spain as he tried to stop the train but not in time. Lilly saved her owner but couldn’t get herself to safety as the train’s wheels cut off her right food. Lilly also suffered multiple fractures in her pelvis and several other internal injuries. The driver immediately called the emergency services while Lilly calmly stood guard over Spain despite her life-threatening injuries. Lilly received immediate medical treatment and her entire right leg had to be amputated as it was too damaged to be repaired.(source)

6. In 2007, a Jack Russell Terrier named George fought and sacrificed himself to save five children from an attack by two Pit Bulls. His injuries were so severe he had to be euthanized, but he was awarded a PDSA Gold Medal posthumously and commemorated with a bronze statue.

George, the Jack Russel Terrier
Image Source: wikipedia

On April 29, George was playing with five children aged between three and 12 in the small town of Manaia, Taranaki, New Zealand. As they were returning home from a visit to a local shop, a pair of Pit Bulls began to get aggressive at them. George intervened between the dogs and the children. According to one of the children, “George tried to protect us by barking and rushing at them, but they started to bite him – one on the head and the other on the back.”

George received such severe injuries that his owner Allan Gay had to euthanize him, and the two Pit Bulls were taken by dog control officials who subsequently euthanized them. Gay received George’s bravery medal from the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Animals at the children’s school, as well as the PDSA Gold Medal in 2009 from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.(source)

7. In 2004, a pod of dolphins began circling a lifeguard, his daughter, and two other girls swimming in the sea. He then noticed that there was a shark under them and the dolphins were driving it away.

Bottlenose Dolphin
Image Source: NASA

On October 30, 47-year-old lifeguard Rob Howes and his 15-year-old daughter Niccy were swimming 100 meters out to the sea at Ocean Beach, Whangarei, New Zealand, along with 15-year-old girl Karina Cooper and 16-year-old Helen Slade. When Howes and Slade drifted around 20 meters away from the others, a bottlenose dolphin swam directly at them and dived in front of them towards a three meter long great white shark.

A few other dolphins also began herding the four swimmers together circling them for the next 40 minutes protecting them from the shark. Another lifeguard patrolling on a rescue boat soon noticed the odd behavior of the dolphins and went to help them. According to Dr Rochelle Constantine of Auckland University School of Biological Science, sharks are not normally a threat to bottlenose dolphins, but the dolphins are known “for helping the helpless things.(source)

8. In 2009, a Beluga whale named Mila saved a free diver when her legs were paralyzed by arctic temperatures by grabbing her leg and pushing her to the surface.

Beluga Whale
Image Source: Steve Snodgrass

The free diving competition that 26-year-old Yang Yun was participating in required the contestants to sink to the bottom of a 20 foot arctic pool at Polar Land, Harbin, northeast China, and stay there as long as possible without any breathing equipment. But she suddenly suffered from crippling cramps because of the temperatures and began to choke. As she was sinking even lower, Mila sensed the trouble she was in and brought her back to the surface.(source)

9. During WWI, a homing pigeon named Cher Ami helped save 194 men by continuing her flight even after being shot through her chest, losing an eye, and a leg, to deliver their coordinates to the headquarters.

Stuffed Body of Cher Ami
Image Source: United States Signal Corps

Cher Ami was donated by the pigeon fanciers in Britain to the US Army Signal Corps in France during WWI. On October 3, 1918, Major Charles White Whittlesey and his battalion were trapped in a small depression behind enemy lines with no food or ammunition. They began receiving friendly fire from allied troops and surrounded by Germans. By the second day only 194 men were left alive and not captured. Since his runners were either killed or intercepted by the Germans, Whittlesey sent two pigeons which were both shot down.

The third pigeon was Cher Ami who was dispatched with a message written on onion paper in a canister tied to her left leg. The Germans spotted her and opened fire shooting her down after some seconds. But she took flight again and arrived at her loft in the headquarters 25 miles (40 kilometers) away in just 25 minutes. The battalion was saved and Cher Ami was operated on by the army medics.

Cher Ami’s leg was just hanging by the tendon and had to be removed. She was fixed with a small wooden leg they carved for her and was put on a boat to the United States where she was awarded the Croix de Guerre Medal with a palm Oak Leaf Cluster for her services. However, she never completely recover and died of her wounds on June 13.(source)

10. In 1998, when her owner suffered a heart attack, a pot-bellied pig named Lulu saved her life by busting through the backyard, which left her bleeding, and laying down in the middle of nearby road until one of the drivers stopped to call for help.

Pot-Bellied Pig
Image Source: Joshua Lutz

JoAnn Altsman of Pennsylvania had a heart attack while her husband Jack was away fishing. No one heard her calls for help nor her dog’s bark, until Lulu went out into the traffic and laid down to get humans’ attention. While some of the cars just drove around her, one of the drivers saw that Lulu was bleeding and yelled out that he found a pig who was hurt. JoAnn yelled back and the driver immediately called an ambulance.

JoAnn received an open-heart surgery and according to the doctors, she could have died in the next 15 minutes. Lulu became a celebrity and was even invited to the Late Show With David Letterman where she met George Clooney who also had a pot-bellied pig at that time.(source)

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