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12 Hero Dogs That Saved Lives (With Pictures & Their Feats)

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

search and rescue german shepherd dog looking for avalanche survivors

If you own a dog, you know how unique the bond between humans and our canine companions can be. Since humans first began domesticating wolves thousands of years ago, the two species have formed a partnership unlike any other. Dogs have played countless roles for humans throughout history, including that of lifesaving heroes. In this article, you’ll read about 12 incredible heroic dogs that saved lives.

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The 12 Hero Dogs That Saved Lives

1. Barry of Switzerland

Barry of Switzerland
Barry (Image Credit: PraktikantinNMBE, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 4.0)
  • Breed: St. Bernard
  • Years of Rescue: 1800–1812

Barry was a large dog who belonged to the monks who operated a hospice in the Alps in Switzerland. Although the breed was not yet fully developed, Barry’s breed was an early version of what would become the St. Bernard, named after the mountain pass where the hospice was located.

Barry served as a rescue dog, sniffing out travelers who became stranded in the harsh mountain region. Reportedly, he was responsible for saving as many as 40 lives over his 12 years at the hospice. After his death, Barry’s body was stuffed and is still on display in a museum in Switzerland.

2. Swansea Jack

Swansea Jack
Image Credit: Swansea City – All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
  • Breed: Flat-coated Retriever
  • Years of Rescue: 1931-1937

Swansea Jack was a Black Flat-Coated Retriever born in 1930 in Swansea, Scotland. He lived near the docks and served as an unofficial lifeguard, always on the alert for cries for help. Swansea Jack made his first rescue in 1931 by saving a 12-year-old boy, but this first act of heroism flew under the radar.

However, a few weeks later, Jack saved another swimmer, this time with an audience. He instantly became a sensation, earning media coverage and numerous awards. From 1931–1937, Swansea Jack was credited with saving 27 lives. In 1937, Jack met an untimely end after eating rat poison, or he likely would have saved even more people.

3. Sako

  • Breed: King Shepherd
  • Year of Rescue: 2014

In 2014, Sako and his 16-year-old owner, Joseph, were the only survivors of a terrible car accident in British Columbia, Canada. Joseph and Sako were thrown from the car, and the teenager was severely injured. The pair were stranded in the woods for 40 hours before they were rescued.

Sako kept Joseph warm during that time and protected him from roaming coyotes. He also helped his owner get water from a nearby creek. Joseph’s mother believes Sako saved her son’s life, and authorities agreed that the dog played a vital role in keeping his owner alive until rescuers arrived.

4. Todd

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Year of Rescue: 2018

Golden Retriever Todd wasn’t even a year old when he performed his act of heroism. In 2018, Todd was hiking with his owner and housemates in Arizona when they encountered a rattlesnake. Todd’s owner didn’t notice the snake and nearly stepped on it. The rattlesnake struck at her leg, but Todd jumped between them and took the snake bite right on the nose. Poor Todd required emergency treatment but survived his act of bravery.

5. Yolanda

Image Credit: Red Paw Emergency Relief Team – All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
  • Breed: Labrador
  • Years of Rescue: 2014, 2015

Yolanda, a service dog from Philadelphia, saved her owner’s life in back-to-back years and from different dangers. In 2014, Yolanda’s owner, a visually impaired woman named Maria, fell and became unconscious while home alone. Following her training, Yolanda called 911 on a special phone, and medical workers were able to revive Maria.

The following year, Maria woke up to the smell of smoke. She alerted Yolanda using the command “danger,” and the dog again called 911. The two escaped with minor injuries thanks to Yolanda’s heroics.

6. Lucca

Lucca (Image Credit: Cpl. Jennifer Pirante, Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)
  • Breed: German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois cross
  • Years of Rescue: 2006–2012

Lucca was a Marine Corps explosives detection dog who served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan alongside her handler. During her career, Lucca participated in over 400 patrols to locate and defuse improvised explosive devices (IEDs.) She saved her handler and numerous other soldiers’ lives by identifying almost 40 IEDs while leading patrols.

None of the troops entrusted to her care were injured during Lucca’s tours of duty. On her final mission, Lucca was severely injured by an IED and lost a leg, leading to her early retirement in 2012. She was awarded an international award for heroism by a military working dog in 2016.

7. Major

  • Breed: Labrador-Pitbull mix
  • Year of Rescue: 2014

Major, a rescued dog, heroically saved his owner, Terry, after the retired Marine suffered a seizure in 2014. He was trained to assist Terry, who has PTSD and seizures, and jumped into action when the dog witnessed his owner’s medical event. Using his teeth, Major pulled Terry’s smartphone out of his pocket and repeatedly stepped on the screen to dial 911.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the dispatcher thought it was a prank call and hung up. Major called again…and again 10 times before the dispatcher finally heard Terry having a seizure over the phone and sent help. Terry recovered, thanks to Major’s persistence.

8. Peanut

Peanut the dog rescues 3 year old
Image Credit: Delta Animal Shelter – All rights reserved to the copyright owners.
  • Breed: Unknown mixed breed
  • Year of Rescue: 2017

Peanut, a mixed breed from Michigan, was rescued from an abusive situation in 2016 and adopted by a new family after healing from her injuries. In 2017, Peanut’s new family was surprised when she began barking and running around the house obsessively one cold morning.

When they let her outside, Peanut instantly ran for the woods, and her owner followed. Peanut led her owner right to a ditch where they found a 3-year-old girl who had wandered away from a neglectful home nearby. Thanks to Peanut, the little girl was rescued from the ditch and her dangerous living situation.

9. Babu

  • Breed: Shih Tzu
  • Year of Rescue: 2011

In 2011, an earthquake struck the coastal Japanese city where Babu lived with her 83-year-old owner. After the quake, Babu was agitated and circled inside the house, asking to go outside. Her owner took her out for their usual morning walk, but Babu immediately pulled her owner away from their usual path.

Babu pulled her owner toward a nearby hill just as a tsunami, triggered by the earthquake, swamped their town and destroyed their house. Babu’s owner didn’t even realize their close call until she followed her dog up the hill and turned to look behind them.

10. Kelsey

  • Breed: Golden Retriever
  • Year of Rescue: 2017

In the winter of 2017, Kelsey, a Golden Retriever from Michigan, accompanied her owner Bob outside to get more wood for the fire. Unfortunately, Bob slipped and fell on the snow, breaking his neck.

Kelsey stayed with Bob for almost 20 hours, lying on top of him to keep him warm through the January night. Bob was finally found by a neighbor and rushed to the hospital for surgery. According to Bob’s doctor, Kelsey saved his life and kept him from suffering frostbite.

11. Blacky

  • Breed: Unknown mixed breed
  • Year of Rescue: 2020

Blacky, a mixed breed from the Philippines, was one of 10 dogs cared for by a local family. On Christmas Eve 2020, a man riding his motorcycle noticed a dog chasing him and barking. The man turned around, and the dog, Blacky, ran towards a nearby dump. When the motorcyclist followed him, Blacky led the man directly to an abandoned newborn baby who had been left at the dump. Thanks to Blacky, the baby was saved. A local animal rescue raised money to buy pet supplies for Blacky’s family in recognition of his heroic act.

12. Roselle

  • Breed: Labrador
  • Year of Rescue: 2001

Roselle, a guide dog, was at work with her owner Michael in the World Trade Center on 9/11. After the plane crashed into their tower, Michael and over 30 of his co-workers realized that they needed to get out quickly. However, visibility was low, and the smell of jet fuel was overwhelming.

Michael realized that Roselle could be the eyes for all of them as they made their escape. Roselle led Michael and the other employees down the stairs of the tower, an hour-long journey that ended just moments before the tower collapsed. Thanks to Roselle, over 30 lives were saved as Michael and the others were able to run clear of the building as it came down.

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Between them, these 12 incredible heroic dogs saved countless lives. These might be extreme examples, but dogs around the world make people’s lives better every day with their love and companionship. There’s no bond quite like that between humans and canines, and it can even lead to extraordinary acts of heroism like those you learned about in this article.

Featured Image Credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock

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