Studies show that owning a cat, dog or other pet has a multitude of health benefits. Animals can lower blood pressure and help prevent strokes — and sometimes a pet can even save your life. Check out these amazing stories of animals who came to the rescue and saved the lives of their owners.
1. Taking a bite for the baby
In October 2007, 17-month-old Charlotte Svillicic was playing in the yard of her family’s Australian home when the family dog, a Doberman pinscher named Khan, began to snarl. A king brown snake — one of the world’s most venomous snakes — was under the house. Khan tried to nudge the toddler away, but when she didn’t move, he picked her up by her diaper and tossed her a few feet behind him. The movement startled the snake, which lunged and bit Khan on the paw, but after receiving antivenin, the Doberman made a full recovery.
2. Making the call
Joe Stalnaker adopted his German shepherd, Buddy, when Buddy was an 8-week-old puppy, and he taught him to retrieve the phone when he started experiencing seizure symptoms. If Stalnaker blacks out or is unable to make the call, Buddy is trained to use his teeth to hit a speed-dial button that calls 911. In 2008, the 18-month-old dog called the emergency line, and began whimpering into the phone. Emergency responders arrived on the scene a few minutes later and found Stalnaker unconscious, but after a couple days in the hospital, he recovered.
"Buddy, he basically gives me my independence," Stalnaker later said. "He's my world. He's my best friend, no question. He's always there, and I just hope I can be as good to him as he's been to me."
Buddy isn't the first dog to dial 911 for help. In 1996, an Irish setter placed a 911 call when her owner's breathing machine cut off, and in 2004 a Rottweiler not only placed a call when her owner fell out of her wheelchair, but also opened the door for police officers.
3. Sounding the alarm
A 2-year-old named Hannah Kuusk would have choked to death in 2009 if it weren't for Willie, a Quaker parrot. “While I was in the bathroom, Willie started screaming like I'd never heard him scream before and he started flapping his wings," said Megan Howard, the child's babysitter and the bird’s owner. "Then he started saying 'mama baby' over and over and over again until I came out and looked at Hannah and Hannah's face was turning blue.” Howard performed the Heimlich maneuver to save the little girl, but she says Willie is the real hero. The bird was later presented with the local Red Cross chapter's Animal Lifesaver Award.
4. Meowing a warning
When a gas-powered water pump began leaking odorless carbon monoxide into the Keesling home, their cat, Winnie, began nudging her sleeping owners and meowing loudly. “It was a crazy meow, almost like she was screaming,” said Cathy Keesling. By the time she woke up, Cathy was already dizzy and nauseated from the fumes and her husband and son were unconscious. Thanks to Winnie, Cathy was able to call 911 and get help before anyone was seriously harmed.
5. Running for help
When Ben Heinrich’s Anchorage workshop caught fire in 2010, he shouted at his German shepherd, Buddy, that he needed help and the dog took off into woods. Buddy ran to a nearby road where he found a state trooper and then led him to the site of the fire. The state trooper then directed the fire department to the scene, where firefighters were able to put out the blaze before it spread to Heinrich’s home. Buddy received a silver-plated bowl from the Alaska State Troopers for his heroism, but Heinrich says it wasn't the first time Buddy showed his bravery. The dog, raised by Heinrich since he was 6 weeks old, has twice chased bears away while Heinrich was fishing.
6. Fighting off a fox
In January 2009, 10-year-old Maxim Kurguzov was playing outside his Russian home when a fox wandered into the yard, killed one of the family chickens and then turned on the boy. Shrek, the Kurguzovs’ dog, leapt in front of Maxim and fought off the fox with several bites to the head. Upon hearing the commotion, Maxim’s father, Alexey, grabbed his son and began snapping photos of his fearless dog, which engaged in a 25-minute standoff with the fox.
7. Taking a bullet
Roberta Trawick was sitting on her couch in her Oklahoma City home in 2009 when an armed intruder busted through her front door and told her to get on the ground. Her 2-year-old pit bull, D-Boy, then came charging into the room after the intruder, who fired multiple times, hitting D-Boy three times — including two shots to the head — but the dog continued to run after him. The intruder, apparently spooked, fled.
“That dog saved my life and my family,' said Trawick. “Without D-Boy, that guy could have shot me and my family.'' The Trawicks had rescued the pit bull from an abusive home just three months before the break-in.