10 Pet Heroes to the Rescue

How a group of horses, several dogs, one cat, and a parrot saved their favorite humans.

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Tiger, a quick and fearless decoy

When Sophie Thomas’s son gave her a kitten for company several years ago, the independent 97-year-old resident of Harrison, Mich., became very protective of her. Little did she know that one day their roles would be reversed. 

Thomas was pulling dandelions in her garden one sunny afternoon last summer when she was suddenly surrounded by four growling pit bulls. Clutching her spade, Thomas tried talking to them and shooing them away as they circled her, to no avail. One of the dogs lunged, biting her on the arm. She hit him on the head with her spade, and he backed off, but a second dog advanced. “I’ve never been so scared,” Thomas says. “I was shaking!”

Suddenly, little Tiger came out of nowhere. “She flew through the air and shot past me like a bolt of lightning,” Thomas recalls. “She just jumped right into the middle of them, then ran for the garage.” The dogs took off after Tiger, giving Thomas a window of opportunity to run to safety inside her house. Eventually the dogs left her yard, and Tiger came out of hiding.

The bite required a tetanus shot, and Tiger, who took a swipe to the nose, needed a little patching up. The dogs were quarantined. Thomas credits Tiger with saving her life. “She’s such a scaredy-cat usually,” she says. “I don’t know what came over my angel that day. She got a lot of love that night!”

Scottee, the coyote-battling horse

Every morning about 8:30 or so, Robert “Bob” Bennington Jr. heads over to his brother’s Old Moon Farm, just down the road from his home in Streator, Ill., to feed the family horses. Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010, was no different. When he saw Scottee, his wife Eleanore’s horse, Bennington called out to the 14-year-old brown bay to come get fed.

“That’s when Blue, a 28-year-old horse, ran in front of me like a bat out of heck,” recalls Bennington, 68, a retired employee of a nearby glass factory. “I said: ‘What the hell is the matter with you, Blue? Where’s the fire?’ ” Just then he spotted five coyotes rounding the old outhouse and heading up the hill toward him. “I called to Scottee, who was eating grass by the creek, to come quick.”

The horse, so easygoing and gentle that he once spent his summers working at a kids’ camp, took off at full gallop toward Bennington, who’d been surrounded by the coyotes and was terrified. Scottee planted himself in front of Bennington and started whinnying, rearing up, and stomping the ground. Soon three other horses—Danny Boy, Codee, and Levi—were helping Scottee form a tight circle around Bennington. Blue ran down to the east side of the barn and joined the other horses in a line, watching and ready to fight if needed. “I had seen cows do this to protect their babies,” Bennington says. “But never horses.”

The largest of the coyotes lunged toward Bennington, and Danny Boy kicked at it. The mangy black animal came back at him, snarling. Then a shaggy gray coyote moved in. “Scottee wheeled around and kicked him dead center, and sent him for a loop,” says Bennington. “The big black one went wide, and Levi caught him in mid-leap and kicked him in the head.” The coyotes, which Bennington later heard had attacked a child and killed a Shetland pony, let out a few yips and retreated to an empty cornfield. “I thought my number was up,” he says. “All I had for protection was my cane.”

These days, Bennington often can’t help but cry when he tells the story, since Scottee died unexpectedly last November, probably after grazing on a poisonous plant.

Calamity Jane, armed-robber alarm

At about 11:15 on the night of Jan. 23, 2009, Shar Pauley went outside with her three rescued golden retrievers. Calamity Jane, who had joined the family just weeks earlier after being abandoned with a gunshot wound and having a leg amputated, trotted along happily on three limbs. Just days earlier, she’d given birth to a litter of puppies.

The residential street in Aledo, Texas, was quiet. But suddenly Calamity Jane stiffened and bolted toward a neighbor’s home, growling and barking furiously. The other dogs, alarmed, began barking too, though they stayed in their yard as they’d been trained to do. Pauley was taken aback; the dog was usually so docile that she hadn’t even bothered to put her on a leash. “Calamity Jane just picked up on something, and charged over there,” Pauley says. Noticing that her neighbors had company—there were cars parked outside—Pauley worried about disturbing them. She grabbed the dog’s collar and pulled her into the yard next to the driveway. As she did, she heard car doors slam and saw a car speed away. What Pauley didn’t know was that inside the house, Judy Kolman, 59, and her husband Steve had been preparing to bid goodnight to seven guests, including two children, when a gun-wielding man in a ski mask burst in. Herding them into the living room, the gunman shouted at them and beat Steve, while two accomplices ransacked the home, taking jewelry, electronics, and a coin collection.