You know that Lassie never pulled Timmy from a well, right? The only character in the 20-season series to fall down a well was the infamous collie herself. (Or himself. Lassie was played by a series of male dogs.)
Dog culture is enjoying a resurgence in American society, with more and more apartments, workplaces, and even restaurants working to accommodate Man’s Best Friend. Actor and writer Wil Wheaton helps raise money for pet adoptions via events like Wiggle Waggle Walk, and business owners like Rick Featherly make dog adoption and rescue a part of their work and life. The loves for dogs are everywhere.
Dogs love humans too – so much that they save lives at times. We’ve all heard of the famous Saint Bernards and their life-saving barrels of whiskey, but dogs today help people manage epilepsy, provide blood transfusions to cats (more on this later), and occasionally still pull someone out of a fire.
So: to honor the ridiculousness of Lassie and her adventures, let’s take a look at five dogs that actually have saved lives. Spoiler alert: nobody gets pulled out of a well.
Patra: the dog who senses seizures
In the past decade, doctors and therapists have begun to realize that dogs can predict seizures in epileptic patients. Although it is unclear what the dogs are actually picking up, it is predicted that these dogs sense subtle body chemistry changes that occur prior to a seizure’s onset. Many people with epilepsy now use trained seizure dogs to warn them before seizures occur, such as Patra, a Rottweiler/German Shepard mix who helps her owner Donna Jacobs manage daily life in Jefferson City, Missouri. Prior to Patra, Jacobs was afraid to go outside, fearful that she might endanger herself or others should a seizure occur. Now, Patra gives a specific signal – a head-butt to the knee – about 15 minutes before a seizure occurs, allowing Jacobs enough time to go find a safe space.
Moti: he’ll take a bullet for you
A lot of us teasingly refer to our pets as watchdogs, but when push comes to shove, do we actually think our pets would be willing to stand up to an intruder? 2007 Dog of the Year Moti did just that, first distracting the intruder and then literally taking a bullet for his human family. The Patels are alive and unharmed because Moti was willing to get the job done. (Moti was also not permanently harmed, thank goodness.)
Macy and Rory: a dog, a cat, and a blood transfusion
This story has to be seen to be believed. After New Zealand cat Rory ate rat poison, the vets used blood from neighbor dog Macy to save Rory’s life. Normally interspecies blood transfusions are discouraged, but the two pet owners were friends and convinced the vet to take a chance on Rory’s life. Watch the video of their story.
Boydy: the dog who stayed for four days
Here’s another story from Down Under: Boydy, an Australian kelpie, stayed by owner Herbert Schutz for four days after Schutz accidentally ran his car into a tree. Schutz had a fractured skull and significant trauma, but Boydy curled up and kept Schutz’ body warm until help was able to arrive. (In four days. Did we mention it took four days?) Schutz and Boydy are both doing fine.
Duncan: the dog who gave it all to save his owner
We’ll end on a sad note. At around 3:30 a.m., Cobb County, Georgia resident Scott Dunn heard his boxer Duncan barking at him to wake up. When Scott opened his eyes, he realized the house was full of smoke. Dunn grabbed Duncan by his collar and raced for the door, but when he got outside, he realized Duncan had slipped free from the collar and was no longer with him. By then it was no longer safe to enter the home, which was fully ablaze. Duncan, who heroically saved Scott Dunn from the fire that consumed his home, never made it out alive.
These are only a small number of the dogs who regularly save their owners from snakes, burglars and other threats. But not wells. As far as we know, no dog has ever pulled anyone out of a well. That’s pure Hollywood.