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The 24 Most Heroic Animals In History

As if we needed more proof that animals are amazing.

1. Three lions saved an abducted Ethiopian girl.

In 2005, a 12-year-old girl was abducted and beaten by seven men attempting to force her into marriage with one of them. The girl was missing for a week when she was found guarded by three lions. Policemen say that the lions “stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest.” If it weren’t for these lions, the girl’s fate most likely would have been far worse.

2. Moko the dolphin rescued two whales from beaching themselves.

When Moko, a lone dolphin famous for her amiable nature to humans, saw two pygmy sperm whales swimming toward the shore (and their probable deaths), she sprung into action. The dolphin swam to the whales and somehow communicated with them to get them to follow her along the beach and back to sea. PHEW.

3. Therapy dogs that have come to comfort those affected by Newtown.

Over 70 dogs of TDI (Therapy Dogs International) have been serving Newtown to help cope with the tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012. According to the director of TDI’s Newtown chapter, “It’s not just the children who benefit from this…it’s the parents as well…When children interact with the dog, it’s almost as if there’s a transaction of energy. The dogs offer kindness and love. If it’s a bad day, the dogs can really help them just be kids.”

4. Scarlet the cat, who risked everything to save her kittens.

On March 30, 1996, the garage then-feral Scarlette and her five kittens lived in was set ablaze. The New York Fire Department came to extinguish it and found Scarlett, severely burned, pulling her kittens out of the fire one by one. Temporarily blinded by her fire wounds, she touched each of her kittens with her nose to make sure they were all there and alive. Luckily, the firefighter took the family to a veterinary clinic in Port Washington, N.Y., where they were treated and put up for adoption. All of the cats found homes, and Scarlette was able to live out her days “like a queen”! Now, “The Scarlette Award” is presented to other heroic animals, be they heroes to humans or animals.

5. Lily the Joplin tornado rescue dog.

Despite her life-threatening immune deficiency, Lily worked tirelessly (alongside many other rescue dogs) to rescue those trapped under the rubble after the Joplin tornado. According to her human, she “worked without complaint. She got nails in her feet. She got cuts on her legs. I only heard her yelp one time.”

6. The rescue dogs that helped with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Above, a police rescue dog is done for his day of physically and emotionally exhausting work at Ground Zero in NYC. Many dogs helped tirelessly, trying to find people lost in the rubble. Like humans, these dogs suffered from post-traumatic stress from these circumstances, and had to go through their own therapy after their work was done. In 2009, Trackr, the dog who found the last remaining survivor in the rubble of the World Trade Center, was chosen to be cloned.

7. Really, all rescue dogs.

China Daily / Reuters

Above are rescue dogs helping firefighters search for survivors of a 5.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Eryun County, Yunnan Province. Their work is invaluable to such efforts.

8. The cat who detected a human’s breast cancer.

Wendy Humphry’s’s 10-month-old cat started jumping on her breast continuously for weeks to no avail, which prompted Humphry to go to the doctor. It turns out that she had a malignant tumor that was going to metastasized if not treated.

9. LuLu, the potbellied pig who saved her human’s life.

When Jo Ann Altsman suffered a heart attack while vacationing in the Pennsylvania woods, LuLu, her housebroken potbellied pig sprung into action. After crying for a moment, LuLu broke through the gate of the mobile home they were in and ran toward the road. When a car would approach, the pig would walk into the road and lie down. Each time the car didn’t stop, the pig ran back to check on her human and then back to the road. Eventually, a motorcyclist stopped and followed the pig to Jo Ann, where he was able to use his phone to call 911. What a brave piggie!

10. Sergeant Stubby, the only dog promoted to sergeant through combat.

During World War I, a patriotic stray dog wandered onto the 102nd Infantry, Yankee Division training area. Usually dogs were not allowed in the regiment, but this pup, named Stubby for his short tail, boosted morale so much that they allowed him to stay. There, he learned the drills, bugle calls, and how to salute! When it was time to deploy, Private J. Robert Conroy smuggled their new solider onto the ship heading toward France. When his presence was discovered, Stubby quickly won him over with his cutie salute.

What’s even more remarkable about this pup is that the was allowed to join soldiers on the front line, eventually serving in 17 battles. He had a keen knack for locating his wounded comrades, warning about an enemy gas strike, and even attacking a German soldier attempting to map out the layout of Allied trenches. This pup was rightfully promoted to Sergeant Stubby and became a lifetime member of the American Legion, won the gold hero dog’s medal, and later became one of Georgetown University’s earliest mascots.

11. This beluga who saved a diver in a competition gone wrong.

Flickr: 55867435@N00 / Via NEED PHOTOCRED

Yang Yun entered a competition to hold her breath for as long as possible at the bottom of a pool with beluga whales. When Yang Yun decided she was done and went toward the surface, her legs froze, paralyzed from the arctic temperatures. Out of air and unable to move, she lost all hope until one of the whales grabbed her leg and lifted her toward the surface.

12. Killian, the dog who saved his 7-month-old human from an abuser.

ABC News

Earlier this year, a babysitter was arrested for child abuse thanks to their loyal family dog. The babysitter had been working for the family for five months when Killian, their normally friendly dog, became volatile around her. This roused the parents’ suspicions, so they decided to leave an iPhone under their couch to record what happened when they were gone. Unfortunately, the iPhone confirmed their suspicions: the woman had been verbally and physically abusive to the child. Thanks to the heroic dog, the baby is back in safe hands (and paws).

13. Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon during World War I.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Well, really all of the carrier pigeons during World War I and World War II were heroic, delivering important messages over enemy lines. Cher Ami (“dear friend” in French) delivered messages from the U.S. Army in World War I. He was shot and, despite his injuries, delivered the message that ended up aiding the rescue of 194 soldiers in Major Charles Whittlesey’s “Lost Battalion.” He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his service, and his body is on display at the Smithsonian’s Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit in Washington, D.C.

14. Otters might be saving the the world from environmental collapse.

Turns out that kelp beds carry CO2, but sea urchins love eating kelp beds…which would be problematic if sea otters didn’t eat sea urchins! It’s a small difference they’re making, but in the long run, every little bit could help our environment. You keep doing you, otters!

15. The bear who saved an elderly hiker’s life.

California hiker Robert Biggs was exploring the Whiskey Flats when he found a few bears drinking near a stream. Out of nowhere, a mountain lion leaped on him, knocking the man down and biting his arm. The bears quickly came to his aid and fought off the mountain lion, saving Biggs’ life.

16. Lefty, the pit bull who took a bullet for his owners during a home invasion.

During the night, Lefty’s family’s home was broken into by four armed robbers. When one of the robbers pointed a firearm at the father, Lefty leaped and took the bullet instead. The shot left her with a shattered right shoulder and a big injury on her leg. She was rushed to a nearby veterinary hospital, where surgeons were able to get to work and it was ultimately decided they would need to amputate her leg. The costs of such surgery are overwhelming — so the clinic took to Facebook to tell Lefty’s story and gather donations to save her life. Luckily, the outpouring was tremendous, and this heroic pup was given the surgery she needed.

17. Poacher-hunting dogs.

In eastern Congo’s Virunga National Park, the newest weapon against poachers are dogs! The hounds use their keen sense of smell to track and arrest poachers. Each team, made up of a bloodhound and a ranger, takes two years to train, and so far they’ve been successful in their goals. To find out more or donate, you can go here.

18. Therapy llamas comfort hospice patients.

John Moore / Getty Images

Therapy animals are common in hospitals, to help ease the pain and stress of the patient and their families. Here, a llama named Pisco gets a hug from a nurse at the hospice he visits monthly. The animal therapy program is aimed at increasing happiness and to calm terminally ill patients in the last stage of their lives.

19. Toby, the golden retriever who saved his owner using the Heimlich maneuver.

Debbie Parkhurst was eating an apple at home when a large bit got lodged in her windpipe. With no one around but her pup, Toby, she started to beat on her chest, but it didn’t budge. Toby became alarmed, and the next thing Debbie knew, “Toby’s up on his hind feet and he’s got his front paws on my shoulders … he pushed me to the ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and down on my chest.” Eventually, the apple was dislodged, and when Debbie began breathing, Toby stopped and licked her face. Doctors say that if it hadn’t been for Toby, Debbie’s fate would not have been as lucky.

20. A pod of dolphins saved a surfer from a great white shark.

Surfer Todd Endris was struck three times by a great white shark, and the outcome looked hopeless. That is, until a pod of bottlenose dolphins showed up, forming a protective circle around him, which allowed him to get to shore. Endris still had to go through intensive physical therapy, but he owes his life to those dolphins.

21. Babu the Shih Tzu saved his owner from the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Twelve-year-old Babu became restless according to his now-85-year-old human, Tami Akanuma, insisting they go on a walk. When she opened the door, the dog pulled toward a hill, the opposite direction of where they usually would walk. Tami found it odd and followed suit as the dog rushed her up the hill. When she looked back, she witnessed the tsunami that had just taken over her town, destroying everything including her home.

22. Sergeant Reckless, the war horse of the Korean War.

Reckless was a small mare bought by Lieutenant Eric Pederson at the Seoul Race Track. She entered the U.S. Marine Corps in 1952 and served in the Korean War for which she was twice promoted to staff sergeant. She was trained to go to and from the ammo delivery sites, and during the Battle of Panmunjom-Vegas, it is said she made 51 solo trips under enemy fire. Additionally, she was used to evacuate wounded soldiers. She received many awards for her bravery: a Good Conduct Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal, a UN Service Medal, A Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, and two Purple Hearts. Life magazine named her one of America’s 100 all-time heroes.

23. A parrot saved a child from choking.

A woman was babysitting a 2-year-old when she went to the bathroom. She then heard the parrot, Willie, squawking and saying “mama baby” over and over again. The woman ran out, found the child choking, and was able to save her.

24. Kabang saved two girls from being hit by a motorcycle.

AP Photo / Bullit Marquez

After pushing her human’s daughter and niece out of the way of a speeding motorcyclist, Kabang suffered extensive injuries. Luckily, her story touched people around the world and she was able to go to the United States to undergo her lifesaving surgeries.

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