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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Suddenly aware of the racket outside, the gunman contacted his getaway car using his cellphone set on speaker. “There’s people outside,” Kolman heard the lookout say. The men fled, leaving the family and their guests shaken. (The men were later apprehended and are now serving jail time.) “Who knows what might have happened,” Kolman says, if Calamity Jane hadn’t raised the alarm. Only after Kolman ran next door to ask Pauley’s help in calling police did Pauley learn what had happened.

Pauley speculates that her dog, a victim of violence herself, might be more sensitive to disturbing sounds or movements than her other dogs. Since foiling the home invasion, Calamity Jane has returned to her mild-mannered ways and now volunteers as a therapy dog, visiting patients at local hospitals.

Charley, neighborhood watch dog

Frances Gippert, a travel manager who works from home in Loganville, Ga., became annoyed at her dog Charley one afternoon in August 2008. Well before he normally would need to go outside, “he kept coming up to me, tapping my arm, barking like crazy,” says Gippert, 48. “I need it quiet, because I’m constantly on the phone.”

Finally, she relented and snapped on Charley’s leash. Though the West Highland terrier’s habit was to visit a spot across the street, this time he pulled Gippert in the opposite direction, to a spot three houses away, and began barking furiously. “I knew something was wrong,” Gippert says.

Sure enough, when she looked closely into the yard, she spotted a man lying in some bushes. Gippert grabbed Charley and ran home to call 911, then returned to stay with the man while awaiting the ambulance. “He was semiconscious,” she says.

The man was Roy Monie, who owns and rents out the house and had stopped by to do some maintenance on the roof. “I know I shouldn’t have been doing it alone,” he says. While climbing from a lower roof to an upper roof, he lost his balance and fell, hitting his head before landing in the shrubbery below. He lay there for more than two hours, drifting in and out of consciousness. “Charley raised a ruckus,” he says. “He really was a lifesaver.” 

Monie suffered serious injuries in the fall, including a collapsed lung and a cracked rib, and spent a week in the hospital. “It’s amazing,” says Monie, 64, “that a dog could have heard something from at least 200 feet away and interpreted it as danger.” Monie now counts Charley as a fast friend.

Jake, rescue swimmer

It was a warm day in June 2008, and Diane Bailey and her family were spending it at their cabin on the Platte River near Omaha, Neb. While she was absorbed in preparing a picnic, Bailey’s then 12-year-old son, Tony, headed to the river to wade. The water looked waist-high at most.

But it quickly became apparent that the water was deeper than he’d thought, and the current was strong and swift. Although not far from shore, Tony became caught in the current and felt himself being pulled under, and because the wind had shifted, his calls for help went unheard—at least by the humans.

Jake, the family’s 3-year-old black Labrador retriever, charged into action. “All of a sudden, we saw Jake barrel over to the river,” Bailey recalls. She and other family members ran to the riverbank and watched the Lab paddle out to Tony, who put his arms around the dog. Together, they were able to swim their way to calmer water, where family members could reach them.

Jake’s burst of heroism was somewhat surprising, Bailey says wryly, because the dog, now 6, doesn’t often listen to or obey his owners. Luckily, she says, the family had picked him as a puppy from a kennel that breeds black Labs because they like to swim.

Toby, canine paramedic

Debbie Parkhurst, 49, almost always peels apples before she eats them, a habit instilled by her father, who removed the skins for her as a child. But one afternoon in March 2007, the jewelry maker munched a piece of fruit without peeling it and felt a piece become lodged in her throat.

Alone at her home in North East, Md., Parkhurst fought rising panic as she struggled to cough up the piece of fruit. She leaned over a chair to put pressure on her chest, trying to simulate a Heimlich maneuver, and she pounded her sternum with her fist. Nothing worked. “I was crying from the choking feeling,” she says, “and felt I was about to pass out. I thought I might die.”