By Dr. Becker
It’s not unusual for people to say that their dog rescued them, instead of the other way around. Or, as Tim McLarty said in the video above, the life you save may save yours.
He’s talking about Hunter, a Husky mix his family adopted from a local humane society. Just two weeks after adopting Hunter, he repaid the family by saving their lives. A burner on the stove had been accidentally left on for about six hours.
Hunter woke up in the middle of the night and was able to draw Jill McLarty into the kitchen, where the stove was leaking gas. Hunter sat next to the stove and cried, alerting Jill to the potentially deadly mistake. After all was well and the burner had been turned off, Hunter went back to sleep. This story is amazing, but it’s not uncommon…
Most Pet Owners Believe Their Dog Has a Sixth Sense
Most pet owners say their pets have an uncanny ability to sense potential danger and regularly alert their owners to impending events. According to an Associated Press-Petside.com poll:1
- Two-thirds of US pet owners said their pets have a sixth sense about bad weather; 72 percent of dog owners and 66 percent of cat owners say their pet has warned them about bad weather
- 43 percent said their dog has a sixth sense about bad news; 47 percent of dog owners and 41 percent of cat owners have been alerted to bad news by their pet
Dogs can alert their owners to medical emergencies, such as seizures or blood sugar problems, by detecting hormonal changes. They can even sniff out cancer in humans. Part of their sixth sense is undoubtedly due to their highly refined sense of hearing and smell, along with their ability to detect subtle vibrations in the earth and changes in the air (such as barometric pressure) or electromagnetic fields.
This sensitivity to their environment may help your dog warn you of an approaching earthquake or storm. Still other events seem to occur without explanation. Psychologist Stephanie LaFarge, the senior director of counseling services for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told NBC News:2
"I have been awakened in the middle of the night by a dog. Very shortly after that, I received some very, very shocking bad news. I was awake when the phone rang. I couldn't explain why I was awake except the dog was next to me nudging me. How did the dog know my father died at midnight?"
5 More Tales of Heroic Pets
If you thought Hunter’s story was remarkable, here are five more examples of dogs saving their owners, as reported by CNN:3
- Dog Saves Girl from Snake: A young girl playing outdoors was surprised by a snake that was ready to strike. Her dog Psycho, a 10-pound Chihuahua-poodle mix, stepped in front of the girl, taking a bite in the eyelid and saving the child from the snake. (Psycho survived, but had to have his eye removed.)
- Dog Saves Man From Out-of-Control Car: O’Neil, a yellow Lab guide dog in training noticed a car coming toward his trainers on the sidewalk. He alerted one trainer just in time for him to push the other trainer, who was blindfolded at the time, out of harm’s way.
- Dog Saves Lost 2-Year-Old: A 2-year-old boy wandered into the woods near his family’s home and was missing for more than four hours. His family’s dog, Ashepoo, an Australian Shepherd, was finally spotted near a barn, where the boy was found sleeping on his jacket.
- Dog Saves Newborn Baby: In the middle of the night, one family’s dog, Duke, jumped on their bed, shaking uncontrollably – highly unusual for the very obedient dog. The couple checked on their 9-week-old baby sleeping in her bassinet and found her not breathing. They called 911 and the paramedics were able to revive her.
- Dog Saves His Brother: Baxter and Bailey, two golden retrievers, were leashed together when they ran away. Two weeks later, a friend found Baxter, but Bailey was still lost. Baxter led his owner through woods and down a path where Bailey was stuck with his leash wrapped around some bushes.
Of course, it’s not only dogs that save people. One heroic cat, Buddy, alerted Jennifer Chap (via meowing, scratching, and jumping) that her husband was having a heart attack. And, of course, there’s Tara, who saved her young family member from an attacking dog.
Most Common Ways Your Pet May Alert You of Danger
If your pet is behaving erratically, it could be due to a medical issue… or it could be that he is trying to tell you something. The Associated Press-Petside.com poll revealed the most common ways that pets convey their concerns to their owners. If you notice any of these (or a combination), don’t shrug it off until you’ve explored what your pet might be saying:
- Your pet may hide in a safe place
- Your pet may whine or cry
- Your pet may become hyperactive, erratic, or make unpredictable movements
- Your pet may bark or meow persistently
Even stray animals have been reported to save humans, although, most often, the heroic acts take place among a dog or cat and his closely bonded owner. If you’re thinking of expanding your family to include a rescue dog or cat, you never know, he may very well end up saving your life, just as you’ve saved his.
And aside from that, there are actually many reasons to consider adopting from a shelter or rescue group:
- Every dog or cat not purchased from a pet store or backyard breeder improves the pet overpopulation problem created by irresponsibility and greed.
- Adopting a dog or cat from a no-kill shelter can free up space for older or special needs pets that may not find new homes before the end of their natural lives.
- There are plenty of animals to choose from at most shelters. They come in every age, shape, size, coat color, personality, and breed mix, and you can find purebreds at shelters as well. In fact, many breeds have their own rescue organizations, so if you're looking for a purebred, make sure to check both your local shelter and breed rescue organization.
- Compared to the cost of purchasing a pet, adopting one from an animal shelter is relatively inexpensive. And if you get a slightly older dog or cat, there's a good chance he is already fully vaccinated and neutered.
- Adopting an older pet allows you to skip over the time consuming, often-frustrating puppy or kitten stage of development.
- Adopting a mature dog or cat also takes the guesswork out of determining what your pet will look like as an adult – what size she'll grow to, the thickness and color of her coat and her basic temperament, for example.
- Depending on his background, your older pet may already be housebroken or litter-box trained and know basic obedience commands like come, sit, stay, and down.
- Most shelters and rescue organizations do assessments on every new pet taken in to determine factors like temperament, whether the pet has any aversion to other pets or people, whether he is housebroken, has had obedience training, etc. Many of these organizations also have resources to help pets with lack of training or behavioral issues. So when you adopt a pet from one of these organizations, you have a pretty good idea what to expect from your new dog or cat when you bring him home.
- Many shelters and rescues also provide lots of new owner support in the form of materials about training, common behavior problems, nutrition, basic grooming, and general care. In some cases, there are even free hotlines you can call for questions on behavior, training, and other concerns.
- If you have kids, and especially if the new pet will belong to a child, adopting a shelter animal can open a young person's eyes to the plight of homeless pets. It can also help him learn compassion and responsibility, as well as how wonderful it feels to provide a forever home to a pet that might otherwise live life in a cage or be euthanized.
- An older adoptive pet can be the perfect companion for an older person. Many middle-aged and senior dogs and cats require less physical exertion and attention than younger animals.
- An adopted pet can enrich your life in ways both big and small. The unconditional love and loyalty of a dog or cat can lift depression, ease loneliness, lower blood pressure, and give you a reason to get up in the morning. He might even become your hero when you least expect it.