We all think our own dog is the best thing since sliced bread – and to be honest, they probably are – but there are some pooches that really go beyond being called a canine companion.
From earthquake rescues to preventing hypothermia, we look at some of the most courageous, heroic dogs that blow Lassie out of the water.
During World War I, Sergeant Stubby became the official mascot of the USA’s 102nd Infantry Regiment after his owner, Private J. Robert Conroy, snuck him on the ship to France where he was being deployed.
The dog joined troops in 17 battles against the German army, suffering injuries from hand grenades, warning his unit of incoming artillery shells and gas attacks, and even capturing a German soldier. As a result, he became the first dog to be given a rank in the US Armed Forces.
Stubby was seen as somewhat of a celebrity when he returned home, leading parades and meeting three different Presidents and when he died in 1926, he got a half page obituary in the New York Times – longer than most notable people of his time!
When Bob went out to get a log for his fire on a cold New Year’s Eve in Michigan, he slipped in the snow and broke his neck, lying paralysed on the floor.
With his nearest neighbour a quarter of a mile away, and wearing just a shirt, long johns and slippers, the man faced a long night outside in the freezing temperatures with possible hypothermia and frostbite. But his dog Kelsey had other ideas.
The golden retriever kept Bob warm by lying on top of him and kept licking his face and hands to keep him awake. She also barked constantly and when Bob eventually lost consciousness, Kelsey started letting out a screeching howl which eventually alerted his neighbour 19 hours later.
Frida the Labrador has seen more natural disasters than most people have in their lifetime.
The Mexican rescue dog has assisted with operations to help find survivors after many earthquakes, including the deadly 2017 earthquake in Mexico City. She has been credited with finding at least 12 people alive during her eventful career, and many more bodies, but Frida has now hung up her doggy boots and retired.
The pooch and her trainer, Israel Arauz Salinas, have both been honoured with a bronze statue in Puebla City, complete with boots and goggles!
Another search and rescue hero was local boy Echo, carrying out more than 70 missions with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service over a 10-year career.
The pooch and his owner, Mike Dewer, were even dispatched to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2010 where he helped carry out 46 building searches in just two weeks, clearing areas so firefighters did not have to put themselves at risk.
Echo became the country’s most decorated canine, being awarded the PDSA Order of Merit (the animal equivalent of the OBE), a Pride of Britain Award, Hero Dog of the Year 2010, IFAW Animal of the Year 2010 and Crufts’ Friends for Life Award 2011.
On retirement, Echo continued to promote the importance of fire safety at events to children but sadly died earlier this year of old age.
When the World Trade Center collapsed, almost 10,000 rescue workers headed to ground zero to help the search and rescue effort – and 300 of those were dogs.
One of the first on the scene was Appollo along with handler Peter Davis. The two worked up to 18 hours a day trying to find survivors, a difficult and exhausting task. In fact, the German shepherd was almost killed by flames and falling debris but luckily had fallen into a pool of water just moments before, avoiding disaster.
In 2002, the pooch received the Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross – on behalf of all of the animals who had participated in rescue operations at the sites of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Twelve-year-old Babu isn’t a fan of walks. But on the morning of 11 March 2011 in Japan, the tiny shih tsu insisted his 83-year-old owner, Tami Akanuma, take her out.
What’s more, the dog dragged them in the opposite direction to the way they usually walk, baffling Tami.
Once they’d made it up a hill, Tami finally stopped to take a breather after realising they’d walked more than a kilometre in just a short time. Within a few minutes, the town where Tami and Babu lived was flattened by a wall of muddy water from a tsunami – with Babu’s sixth sense saving their lives.
Some of you might recognise Finn from Britain’s Got Talent, where he appeared with his owner, PC Dave Wardell, as a magic, mind-reading act.
Yet the German shepherd is also known for his role in the recently passed bill, Finn’s Law, a campaign which aims for greater legal protection for service animals.
PC Wardell and Finn were both stabbed after chasing a robbery suspect. The latter was knifed in both the chest and head, with his injuries deemed so bad he was not expected to survive. Yet Finn still kept hold of the suspect and did not let go until reinforcements arrived, with PC Wardell crediting him for saving his life.
Prior to Finn’s Law being passed, the suspect could only be charged with criminal damage and given a small fine.
After being taken in by William Thomas, Swansea Jack was encouraged by his owner to go out swimming in the sea with some of the local boys, where he got into the habit of dragging them back to shore by their collars.
As a result, the black retriever would always respond to cries for help from the water. His first rescue went largely unreported, but his second made him a local superstar with the council awarding him a silver collar.
Jack is said to have saved more than 27 people from drowning during his lifetime and he is still the only dog to have been awarded two bronze medals – the canine V.C. – by the National Canine Defence League (now the Dogs Trust).
Figo is definitely a good boy.
In 2015, the golden retriever service dog and his limited vision owner, Audrey, were on the way back from their usual daily walk when Audrey gave Figo the command to cross the street. When part of the way across, the dog saw a bus coming towards them, moving from Audrey’s right side to left and putting himself between her and the bus.
Despite having a severe leg injury, Figo refused to leave Audrey’s side until she had been taken into an ambulance.
After a fridge freezer caught fire during the night, Diesel the staffie’s quick response made sure his family escaped virtually unscathed.
The dog was sleeping at the bottom of owner Jordan Ash’s bed when he began barking, scratching and pulling at his duvet in an attempt to wake him up.
Thanks to Diesel’s quick reaction, Jordan was then able to get his parents, himself and Diesel out of the burning building. Just a few minutes later and the family would have inhaled too much carbon monoxide, meaning Diesel may not have been able to wake them.
The incident saw the brave pooch being presented with the prestigious PDSA Gold Medal, the animal equivalent of the George Cross.