Heroic American Dogs

A dog with the American flag in its mouth
Photo from indianpeaksvet

Dogs are intelligent, loyal, and compassionate. They have amazing natural instincts that help the world on a daily basis.

In honor of Independence Day in the United States, these are the stories of eight heroic American dogs.

These canines have demonstrated incredible courage, intelligence, and skill, and many have risked their own lives to save the lives of humans.

Sergeant Stubby — The World War I Hero

A heroic dog in full gear sitting in a green field during WWI
Photo from BBC

Sergeant Stubby, so named because of his short tail, was a pit bull mix that accompanied the United States Army during the First World War. The dog was found wandering the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1917 and was adopted by one of the soldiers.

The dog accompanied deployed troops throughout the course of the war in Europe. Sergeant Stubby assisted the U.S. Army in a number of ways — by sniffing out poisonous gas, by listening for incoming enemies, and by finding and comforting injured soldiers.

Upon returning to the US, Sergeant Stubby was a celebrated guest at many parades throughout the nation.

Smokey the Yorkie — The World War II Mascot

A Yorkshire terrier sitting in a WWII soldier's helmet
Photograph from Yank Magazine

Smokey was a yorkie (Yorkshire terrier) owned by Corporal Bill Wynne of Ohio. The terrier was originally rescued by Corporal Wynne in 1944 while the soldier was stationed with the U.S. Air Force in New Guinea.

Soon after adopting Smokey, Corporal Wynne contracted dengue fever and was hospitalized for several days. Smokey stayed by the corporal’s side throughout his recovery and acted as a calming presence to his owner and to the other injured soldiers in the hospital.

Not only was she a trailblazing therapy dog — Smokey later carried an urgently needed telephone line through a 70-foot underground pipe. Her actions saved dozens of soldiers from several days of work that would have left them exposed to enemy attacks. By re-establishing the communication network, the yorkie was credited with saving the lives of 250 men and 40 planes that day.

Midnight — The Hurricane Survivor

a black Labrador retriever bringing food to people
Photo from New York Times

Midnight was a black Labrador retriever who endured two major hurricanes. In 2005, the puppy survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and was later adopted by a building superintendent in Manhattan.

Before Hurricane Sandy, Midnight was already a fixture in his local community in the Lower Manhattan West Village. The Labrador frequently helped an elderly neighbor by carrying bags of groceries and other necessities up four stories so the neighbor could avoid the difficult climb.

When Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, the storm left millions of New York residents without water or power for days. During the immediate aftermath of the storm, Midnight came to the rescue of his neighborhood by carrying drinking water to his neighbors who were left in darkness and without running water.

Bretagne — The 9/11 Search-and-Rescue Dog

Golden retriever that served as a gorund-zero search dog during 9/11
Photo from CNN

Bretagne was a golden retriever with a distinguished career as a search and rescue dog. When she passed away in 2016 at 16 years old, Bretagne was the last surviving ground-zero search dog.

During the aftermath of the horrific attacks on New York, Bretagne worked 12 hours per day for two weeks straight. The golden retriever tirelessly searched through the rubble of the fallen towers, looking for signs of life.

When Bretagne passed away in her hometown of Harris County, Texas, the dog was honored with a heroine’s funeral. Her body was draped with an American flag and firefighters and rescue workers attended the ceremony in recognition of her service to the American people.

In addition to her rescue efforts in New York, Bretagne had also assisted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and served in her local fire department for many years.

Remington — The Cancer Survivor

Labrador retriever mix that is a cancer survivor that served as a search and rescue dog
Photo from vetmed.tamu.edu

Remington is a three-legged Labrador retriever mix that survived cancer. He’s owned by firefighter Rachel Crivelli, who is also a cancer survivor.

Prior to his cancer diagnosis, Remington served as a special type of search and rescue dog that was specifically trained to search for human remains. This work is incredibly important as it helps solve crimes and bring closure to families who have lost loved ones. The highly trained animal can locate any human remains, from a deceased body to the smallest drop of blood. Throughout his career, Remington was credited with 34 deployments and six confirmed finds.

When he was eight years old, the Labrador mix was diagnosed with a malignant nerve tumor, which is a common form of cancer in dogs. A team of veterinary oncologists removed the tumor and amputated his back right leg. Remington retired from service after recovering from cancer and now lives a happy life on three legs.

Roselle — The Seeing Eye Dog

Labrador retriever that acts a a seeing eye dog and helped her owner down 78 flights of stairs out of WTC Tower number 2 on 9/11
Photo from People

Roselle was a yellow Labrador and heroic guide dog for the blind. The lab’s owner was Michael Hingson, a blind man who worked in the World Trade Center.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Roselle accompanied her owner to the office as usual. The attack on the first tower that day caused the seeing eye dog to leap into action and immediately lead Mr. Hingson down 78 flights of stairs to safety. The pair was able to escape the building just moments before the second tower collapsed entirely. Roselle had the amazing instinct to take her owner far away from the disaster site to avoid the imminent danger of falling debris. Mr. Hingson credited his canine companion for saving his life that day.

John D. — The Cancer Detector

A border collie that excelled in scent detection
Photo from news.uams.edu

John D. is a border collie that was rescued from an animal shelter in Arkansas at six weeks old. The helpful hound grew to be an award-winning service animal that was highly trained in scent detection, assisting with cancer detection, and search and rescue efforts during natural disasters.

He was the first dog to enter the ovarian cancer detection program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. After three years of dedicated training, John D. was able to successfully detect the scent of ovarian cancer in human urine. This skill is especially important as there is no screening method for this fatal type of cancer.

In 2013, John D. was recognized for his life-saving efforts and named the Search and Rescue Hero Dog of the Year at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.

Toby — The CPR Dog

A golden retriever that performed CPR on its owner and saved her.
Photo from NBC News

Toby was a golden retriever that heroically saved his owner’s life. In 2007, Debbie Parkhurst was enjoying an apple in the kitchen of her Maryland home when she suddenly began to choke and collapsed. Her devoted dog lept onto her chest, dislodging the apple from her windpipe.

In honor of his bravery in a time of distress, Toby was named Dog of the Year by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Celebrating Dog Heroes

The Fourth of July is a celebration for all Americans, including American dogs.

These are just a few of many incredible stories of American dogs that have acted heroically in times of distress. From serving in world wars to saving people’s lives, these hero dogs show that canines really are man’s best friend.

Especially when we need these pets the most, the loyalty shown by dogs is a big part of why we love them so much — and they continue to surprise us.

About John Woods 299 Articles
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.

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