5 Hero Guide Dogs Who Saved Their Human Companions’ Lives

September is National Guide Dog Month, a time to celebrate and raise awareness of the work of these special dogs.

Seeing-eye dogs may have existed as far back as the first century A.D., according to the International Guide Dog Federation. In the ruins of the ancient Roman town of Heculaneum, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., a mural was discovered that depicts a dog leading a man.

Twenty centuries later, Guiding Eyes for the Blind estimates that there are now approximately 10,000 guide dogs working in the United States.

In honor of National Guide Dog Month, here are five seeing-eye dogs that went above and beyond the line of duty by heroically saving the lives of their blind human companions.

Salty and Roselle

When the North Tower of the World Trade Center was struck by the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 on 9/11, two seeing-eye dogs led their blind owners safely out of the building.

Michael Hingson was working on the 78th floor when the plane struck 14 stories above him. Although his 3-year-old seeing-eye dog, Roselle, was terrified of loud noises, the yellow lab immediately sprang into action, leading Hingson to the stairwell and down 78 flights of stairs.

“I was the pilot and she was the navigator,” Hingson told the Los Angeles Daily News on the 14th anniversary of the attacks.

A book Hingson wrote about the experience, Thunder Dog, was a bestseller. Roselle, who retired in 2007, died in 2011 of immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, a disease Hingson believes was triggered by the chemicals, debris and smoke she inhaled on 9/11.

Omar Rivera was also working in the North Tower when the plane struck. His seeing-eye dog, Salty, began running back and forth in the hallway outside Rivera’s cubicle on the 71st floor.

“I think he was trying to search out what was going on — and then he just came back to me and sat down next to me, very anxious,” Rivera told TODAY.com. “The thing I remember most about him that day was the way he tried to communicate with me to tell me, ‘This is urgent. We need to act on this immediately.’”

As they slowly descended the increasingly crowded stairwell, Rivera let go of Salty’s harness so the dog could escape, but the yellow lab refused to leave his side. After an hour and 15 minutes, they finally made it to the ground floor. They were only a few blocks away when the tower collapsed.

Salty retired in 2007. He “played obsessively with tennis balls and exuded relentless joy” until he died at the age of 13 the following year, TODAY.com reports.

Yolanda

Maria Colon, who is blind, awoke to the smell of smoke in her Philadelphia house last month.

“I said, ‘Oh my God… I can’t breathe,’” she told NBC 10.

She shouted, “Danger!” to her seeing-eye dog, Yolanda.

The golden retriever called 911.

“I hear the phone — tke, tke, tke. And she’s growling. And I said, ‘Oh my lord, she called the police,’” Colon said.

This was actually the second time Yolanda used the specially equipped phone to summon emergency services. She did the same thing last year when Colon fell and lost consciousness.

Firefighters quickly arrived and put out the blaze. Both Colon and Yolanda were treated for smoke inhalation.

“I’m her Mommy, and she loves me too much,” Colon said.

Figo

As Audrey Stone crossed a Brewster, N.Y., street with her seeing-eye dog, Figo, on a morning in June, the driver of a mini-bus didn’t see them.

But Figo sure saw the mini-bus. He leaped in front of Stone, taking the brunt of the hit.

“The dog did something really heroic,” John Del Gardo, Brewster’s police chief, told ABC News. “He sort of lunged at the bus. It injured his leg and paw, and the woman received multiple injuries. When EMS came, he didn’t want to leave her side.”

Both Stone and Figo were hospitalized for their injuries, but are expected to fully recover. A generous, anonymous benefactor covered the cost of Figo’s veterinary care.

Figo “deserves the purple heart,” Stone told the Journal News.

Orlando

Cecil Williams, who is blind, was walking too close to the edge of a Harlem subway platform in December 2013.

Witnesses told CBS New York that Williams’ seeing-eye dog, a 10-year-old black lab named Orlando, kept barking and trying to lead him farther away.

Williams, however, ended up falling onto the subway tracks. Orlando jumped down and sat beside him, licking his face.

When a train approached, witnesses screamed for it to stop, but it was too late. Several cars ran over Williams and Orlando. Amazingly, both of them survived.

Since Orlando was about to retire, Williams was afraid he’d have to give up his hero for a new seeing-eye dog, because he couldn’t afford to care for two dogs. But thanks to donations, Orlando will live out his retirement with the man whose life he helped save.

“The spirit of giving, of Christmas, and all of that — it exists here,” a tearful Williams told CBS News.

Photo Credit: midiman

158 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Dogs are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

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Isa JOSSERAND HURE

cute

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Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege3 years ago

Wonderful dogs!

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Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Our angels; love them

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Maria petrillo
Maria PETRILLO3 years ago

Dogs are wonderful animals I Love them!!!

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Amy Thompson
Amy T3 years ago

I think dogs are the only animals who would die for you, as they love you more than their own life.
I have cats that I love dearly, but they'd not take a bullet for me;)

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Julia Cabrera-Woscek

Little angels!

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell3 years ago

Thank you

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Ann W.
Ann W3 years ago

What beautiful stories - all of them - I defy anyone not to be moved by the bravery and loyalty of all of these dogs. What human would do what some of these dogs dig?

I actually bought "Thunder Dog" by Michael Hingson and read it 3 times in the first few months I had it and then put it forward to my Book Club. They all loved it. Roselle not only led Michael down 78 flights of stairs, she greeted all the fire fighters who were making their way up and brought a sense of calm to the otherwise terrified people trying to get down. Michael wrote the kiss she gave those brave fire fighters was the last kiss they received.
They made it safely out of the Towers only to have to run for their lives when the Towers collapsed. It was such a moving book and so descriptively written. You could feel the love Michael had for his dog and his pride in her.

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