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Service Golden Retriever Hero Midas
We love documenting heroic
Golden deeds, the inspiring tale of
SENIOR BULLET leading the way.
And, please also delight in all our incredible Life-Savers'
Hero Dogs R Us Kids
Contest In 2004, we
attempted to have a Kids Only Contest to honor special
Goldens with a cause. However, only three entries were received.
those who participated
in good faith, we mailed out prizes that included copies of
Station Charlie: A True Story About a Real Dog, Golden rubber key
chains, and our laminated & tasseled bookmarks.
Merle is a 65-pound Golden Retriever from Evansville, Indiana. One day when she was out
with her pet buddy Sam, she fell through the ice while chasing a stick. Terrified that his
dog was in trouble, 10-year-old Glenn "Sam" Henderson tried to save her. But, he
fell in as well. A neighbor heard his cries for help, luckily, and called the Perry
Township Volunteer Fire Department.
Witnesses credit Merle with saving Sam's life. "We've never had anything quite like
this. The whole time it looked like the dog was behind him, nudging him, keeping him up
and pushing him toward the ice," said Goeff L. Rupe, medical officer for the fire
department. "Once we got Sam into the boat, the only thing he said was, 'Get my
Unhurt despite this ice plunge, Merle swan to the shore, and waited on the bank while Sam
was rowed to safety. She continued pacing nervously waiting outside of the ambulance while
Sam was stripped, dried off, and wrapped in a blanket. Sam had to be rushed to Deaconess
Hospital so he could be treated for his hypothermia. Sam and Merle were reunited at home.
"We'll have to find a nice steak bone for Merle," said Sam's father. As for Sam,
Mr. Henderson said, "He can have whatever he wants to eat today but, much to his
dislike, he's got some homework to do."
Why Dogs Risk their Lives
to Save Humans The following insightful article was written
by Dr. Stanley
Coren, professor of psychology
at the University of British Columbia. It was published in the Canadian Globe
and Mail on January 8, 2010.
It might be just a holdover from childhood
fantasies, but most dog owners believe that one of the
special defining aspects of dogs is their desire to help us.
At some level, we trust that our dogs will have the
intelligence to recognize when their help is needed, and the
courage to place their personal safety at risk to save the
lives of their beloved human families. Perhaps it harkens
back to a primitive human being huddled near a small fire,
looking fearfully into the darkness yet somehow reassured
because a dog is resting quietly nearby. There is an
enduring psychological comfort that we seem to draw from a
confidence that in a time of crisis our dogs will turn into
heroes, saviours, rescuers or faithful defenders, just like
Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Benji and every other dog star we have
seen depicted in the movies.
Take the recent case of 11-year-old Austin
Forman of Boston Bar, B.C. He was out gathering firewood,
accompanied by his golden retriever, Angel, when she began
barking frantically. A few moments later, he saw a cougar
charging toward him. Suddenly, the cat was intercepted as
Angel rushed to the boy's rescue. As the two animals were
locked in combat, Austin had time to dash into the
protection of his nearby house. An emergency phone call
brought an RCMP officer, who happened to be only minutes
away. When he arrived, the animals were still fighting, but
he managed to shoot the cougar. Angel's first response on
staggering to her feet, wounded and bleeding, was to weakly
return to Austin and lick the hand of her young charge.
Austin's mother, Sheri, summarized the feelings of all
present when she said, “Now she's our guardian angel.”
While this case is heartwarming and supports
the idea that our furry friends can rise to the stature of
heroes if circumstances require them to so, for a
psychologist, or a researcher concerned with the evolution
of behaviour, what happened here is a puzzle. Why should
dogs try to help us? More specifically, why should a dog put
its life at risk to save a human being.
As part of the research I did for my book
Why Does My Dog Act That Way?, I looked at 1,006
published reports of cases where dogs saved the lives of
Because I was interested in what dogs
naturally do, I eliminated any reports involving guide dogs,
police patrol dogs and search-and-rescue dogs that were
deliberately trained to assist people, even if the animal
was acting heroically by doing something that it was not
trained for, such as a guide dog that defended its blind
owner from the attack of a mugger. I also excluded any
stories that appeared to be simply unbelievable, such as
“Dog Drives Sick Owner to the Hospital.”
HOW DOGS BECOME HEROES
My analysis showed four ways in which dogs
sometimes save human lives. The most common (accounting for
about 35 per cent of the cases) involves sounding the alarm.
These are cases when dogs set up a commotion and frantically
alert family members because of smoke, fire, gas leaks and
so forth. This makes sense, since part of the domestication
process of dogs included carefully selecting animals that
bark. Wild canines, such as wolves, seldom bark. Our
primitive ancestors recognized that the bark of a dog could
be helpful, alerting a village to the approach of predatory
animals or threatening strangers. A dog in their home could
serve as a sort of biological burglar alarm. So we modified
the genetic makeup of dogs to bias them toward warning us of
danger. This is the kind of help that Angel at first offered
to Austin, alerting him to impending danger from the cougar
by barking, although in this instance, the warning was not
understood and more direct assistance was needed.
The second most common form of assistance
(about 22 per cent) involves bringing help to a victim. This
is more complex, since the dog must recognize a problem
affecting a human, then find another human to assist, and
finally guide him or her back to the site of the trouble.
This behaviour usually consists of finding a potential
rescuer, barking at them, then running in the direction of
the problem, and repeating this until the human actually
follows the dog. Max Lovett of Alliston, Ont., and his Irish
setter, Caleigh, provide a recent example. When Mr. Lovett
had a heart attack while playing in a snowy field with
Caleigh, the dog raced to a nearby farmer and brought him to
his master's aid before he froze to death on that cold
The third form of assistance (about 20 per
cent) involves pulling, grabbing or pushing people to
safety. These include the cases where a dog saves a drowning
person, or someone who has fallen through ice, by pulling
them to safety. Big dogs, such as Newfoundlands, seem to be
specialists at this type of rescue.
In the movies, heroic dogs are most often
called upon to do battle. Usually this requires them to
physically protect their master from bad men with guns,
marauding grizzly bears, escaped circus tigers and so forth.
In reality, these cases of physical intervention for
protection, such as Angel leaping forward to confront the
cougar, involve just under one in every five cases (18 per
cent). These are also the cases that most puzzle
DARWIN'S TAKE ON SACRIFICE
We know that dogs often risk their own lives
and safety to help human beings. A traditional view of how
evolution works, however, suggests that they should not. The
theory of evolution was based on a concept of “the survival
of the fittest,” in which fitness is measured by how many
offspring an animal will produce. In 1871, Charles Darwin
wrestled with the problem of heroic acts when he said, “He
who was ready to sacrifice his life, as many a savage has
been, rather than betray his comrades, would often leave no
offspring to inherit his noble nature.”
When Darwin looked beyond the individual,
things made more sense, since the presence of individuals
who are helpful and self-sacrificing might improve the
likelihood that a family, group, tribe or species would
survive. Darwin suggested that “a tribe including many
members who were always ready to give aid to each other and
sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be
victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural
selection.” This selection would favour a genetic makeup
that includes the gene or genes making individuals more
likely to be helpful, even at risk to themselves.
For this theory to work, however, heroic
individuals have to be discriminating about whom they are
willing to risk their lives for. It would require heroes to
help not just anybody, but to be more likely to act when
their own relatives are involved. This is important since
relatives share certain genes with one another. Thus when an
individual who is carrying the helpful gene saves the life
of a relative, there is a reasonable likelihood that the
individual who is saved is also carrying copies of that
gene. How likely this is depends on how closely the
individuals are related. This means that genes for helping
can spread by natural selection. Although that gene causes
an individual to behave in a way that might reduce the
individual's own fitness, it will increase the fitness of
his relatives, who will have a greater than average chance
of carrying the gene themselves.
If helping requires kinship, this “survival
of the genes” explanation of why dogs help people would seem
to fail, since dogs and humans are not even of the same
species. Here again, however, man seems to have intervened.
Our domestic dogs have been bred to accept socialization or
identification, not just with other dogs, but with people
who care and are kind to them. Simply living with particular
group of humans causes dogs to view those people as
packmates and perhaps even as family members with strong
kinship ties, despite their difference in species. Thus in
times of crisis, dogs will come to our defence because they
feel that they are defending their family.
Human beings step in to assist in the
evolution of these helpful behaviours. It is certainly true
that heroic dogs get benefits as a result of assisting
people. A canine hero will get good housing, food,
protection and medical care, and their puppies will also be
cared for. In this way humans help to preserve the genes of
the heroic dog.
One can speculate that heroic dogs, in turn,
might have an effect on human genetics and evolution.
Because it is more likely that dogs will assist those people
who have been kind to them, this might allow caring people
to live longer. This means that a dog's heroism toward
people might make it more likely that the caring genes in
humans will also be passed on and multiply in the future.
We infer that Austin Forman must have been
kind enough to Angel that they bonded to the degree that she
would risk her life for him. So thank you, Angel, for
keeping him alive, helping genetically to strengthen and
ennoble our species.
FAIR USE NOTICE Some of the articles here contain copyrighted material, the use of
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provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with
Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107,
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