The human-animal bond runs deep, especially when it comes to people and our pets. While we’re often saving lives by rescuing animals from abusive situations, shelters where they’d be condemned to death and other perilous situations, sometimes the tables are turned by heroic dogs and cats who’d do anything to help their guardians. The Humane Society of the United States recognizes some of the most notable with the Pets of Valor award, which commemorates shelter animals who’ve given back, and then some.
This year, that award went to Chilly, a bulldog mix from Virginia. Chilly’s guardian Heidi Parker received some allergy shots one day and went to take a nap without realizing anything was wrong. While she was unconscious, her throat started to swell and her airways constricted. She was experiencing anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. She could have died in her sleep, but fortunately, she had company.
The normally calm and extremely polite Chilly pawed, whined and licked at Heidi until she woke up, pushing her guardian to seek medical help before it was too late. It can be difficult to rouse someone who’s in shock, so Chilly deserves extra commendations; some humans wouldn’t have been able to recognize a problem, let alone wake Heidi up in time.
Like many dogs and cats, Chilly was sensitive to her owner’s health and took decisive action when she detected something wrong. Numerous pets do this without prompting, but of course medical alert animals (usually dogs) are actually trained to identify problems like low blood sugar or signs of a panic attack so they can help their handlers. Pets who intervene in medical emergencies demonstrate that the connection between animal and handler can run deep, and even an animal not specifically trained to help in a medical emergency will still try her best to get assistance.
When it came to the Pets of Valor Award, Chilly had some stiff competition: she was up against Lilly, a pit bull who dragged a bystander to the body of her fallen guardian; Mabeline, a Rhodesian Ridgeback who protected a 17-year-old shelter volunteer from a vicious attack; Rocky, a Golden Lab who successfully guided his owner through the wilderness to seek medical help after a cardiac event; and a cat, Taz, who woke her family up when their house was on fire. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to heroic pets from the last year alone!
If that’s not an argument for adopting a pet, I don’t know what is. Like human members of the family, pets know when we’re not feeling well, and while they can’t bring us chicken soup and tea in bed, sometimes they can provide much more immediately life-saving services, especially for people who live alone or are frequently out on their own without anyone around.
All of these animals were shelter occupants, abandoned, unwanted and sometimes picked up as strays. If it hadn’t been for the hard work and kindness of people committed to animal welfare and protection, they might have been destroyed or left to wander the streets, experiencing short, miserable lives. The people who rescued them and brought them into their lives were richly rewarded for their decision to adopt a friend, and the people who left them behind missed out on something quite special.
Image credit: Elizabeth Tersigni.