6 Good Dogs (We Clearly Don't Deserve)
We realize this is a controversial statement likely to cost us a lot of fans, but we're going to come out and say it anyway: dogs are good. People are good too, sometimes, but while even the most heroic among us have impulses that pull us toward the dark side, dogs are without flaws and produce pure love humans can only fantasize about. Take the remarkable case of ...
Roselle, Who Led Her Blind Owner Down 78 Floors On 9/11
Maybe you've previously sat back and tried to picture what it was like in the World Trade Center's north tower on September 11, 2001. We're talking about the people in the 90 floors that were below where the plane hit, who heard and felt a loud boom above them and then realized they'd better start heading down before the entire building definitely collapsed. Evacuating during that chaos had to be a scary ordeal for anyone, evacuate-into-your-pants scary. Now picture having to do it while blind.
Computer salesman Michael Hingson was on the 78th floor that day, and his guide dog Roselle was asleep under a desk when the impact woke her up. She led Michael all the way to safety, through stairwells neither has presumably ever navigated, down 1,463 steps. Or rather, she led a group of 30 people -- turns out legal blindness wasn't as big a deal as we just said it was because everyone was having problems seeing and was happy to have a confident dog pointing the route forward. Roselle only stopped along the way to comfort a panicked woman, by licking her. And once they were on the ground, she acted as a guide to another woman they met, whose eyes were injured from the debris.
Wow, that truly was a one-of-a-kind story. Except, no, turns out there was also a guide dog on the 71st floor the south tower. His owner, Omar Rivera, worked at Port Authority headquarters, and when the first plane hit, his computer crashed off his desk. Salty, a yellow lab, led him into the stairwell. But about halfway through their descent, Omar realized there was so much smoke around them and so much confusion that they were going too slow. There was little chance of them making it out together. He let go of the dog's leash, and pushed him to go onward alone.
That didn't really work out, because Salty was a guide dog, not an abandon dog. After going a little ahead, he ran right back to Omar. Leading him all the way down took more than an hour, during which time plane number two hit the building they were fleeing. They got out with just a couple minutes to spare and sprinted two blocks away before the tower collapsed. Salty kept working as a guide dog for years after that, then went on to a retirement filled with tennis balls.
Oddball, Dispatched To Save The Littlest Penguins
Content warning: The following story contains so many beloved elements that it should be the home page of the entire internet.
Penguins are cute. Small penguins are cuter. The smallest penguins in the world are a species officially called the "little penguin," because birdologists don't mess around when it comes to selling you on how cute these guys are. In Australia, they instead call little penguins "fairy penguins," because as Australia's Minister of Birds put it, "You think 'little penguins' sounds cute? Sod off, you plonker, we're going to use a name that's so cute, you will immediately die."
Little penguins, you may be happy to know, are not in any way endangered or threatened in terms of overall numbers. But when you look at individual colonies, things get a bit more dicey. A few predators can quickly tear a colony to shreds. Middle Island, a tiny rocky isle close to Melbourne, used to have a fairy penguin colony 800 birds strong, but then at low tide, foxes from the mainland were able to wade ashore, and they reduced the penguin population to less than 10. (Okay, when we told you this was going to be an adorable story, maybe you weren't picturing mass penguin slaughter, but stick with us, it gets better.)
The answer to the fox problem came from a chicken farmer on the mainland who went by the name of Swampy Marsh. He sent in his Maremma sheepdog Oddball to protect the penguins and scare away the predators. Oddball did her job flawlessly, and not another penguin fell to the foxes. The colony recovered (incest isn't really taboo in the penguin community).
At least, Oddball did her job flawlessly for a while, but then she got lonely for Swampy Marsh and one day swam all the way back home. But she'd proven a perfect pioneer, and other sheepdogs were soon dispatched to take her place. Oddball herself went on to live to 105 in dog years. If you think all this sounds like a great premise for a DreamWorks animated movie, you're close. They made this into a film all right, but it was live-action, featuring actual dogs and penguins:
Hachiko, Who Waited Nine Years For His Dead Master
In the 1920s, Hidesaburo Ueno was a professor at Tokyo Imperial University. He and his dog Hachiko lived in one Tokyo district, and every morning, Ueno would go to Shibuya Station to take the train to work. Every afternoon, he'd return to the station, and Hachiko would be there to greet him as he came off the train. Shibuya Station is a major hub even today, and you may have seen videos of Shibuya's famously packed pedestrian crossings.
On May 21, 1925, Ueno went to the college as usual, but he suffered a brain hemorrhage while in the middle of the lecture. He died right there, so he of course wasn't on the return train that afternoon. Hachiko showed up anyway. He showed up the next day too, still not sure why his master wasn't there. And he showed up every single day from then onward, right up until he himself died in 1935.
If this tale of a faithful lonely dog reminds you of a certain famous Futurama episode, that makes sense, because the creators very much had Hachiko in mind when they put "Jurassic Bark" together. Matt Groening had seen a movie about Hachiko (and had found it so sad that he was actually reluctant to pull the same thing on Futurama), a movie made because the dog had been a huge deal, both during those nine years and after his death. One of Ueno's students figured out what was happening early on and spread the news, and people for years came to Shibuya to give treats to the dog waiting there.
When Hachiko did die (from eating chicken skewers, it was long rumored -- but then it turned out he'd really had worms and cancer), they cremated him, and his ashes were buried alongside his master's grave. But they only cremated his insides. They also skinned him and sent him to a taxidermist so he could be stuffed and displayed permanently in the National Museum. Which is kind of weird, so we can only assume this is part of a long con to resurrect him and unite him with his master using unspeakable necromancy.
Killian, Who Nabbed The Evil Babysitter
When they were looking for someone to look after their seven-month-old son Finn, Benjamin and Hope Jordan ran a basic background check. That's something you pretty much have to do, and in the case of babysitter Alexis Khan, the check turned up nothing bad. They hired her, and she worked for them for five months. Nothing seemed wrong at all, unless you count the fact that Killian, the family's black Labrador, really hated Alexis.
They saw him growling at her, and he seemed to keep putting himself between the sitter and the baby. The couple's theory: Maybe Alexis was being really mean to Killian when they weren't looking. So they left a phone behind under the couch and set it to record, thinking maybe it would pick up some kicks followed by pained barks. Instead, it picked up slaps followed by pained baby cries, punctuated with plenty of vigorous swearing from a sitter who seemed to have a big grudge against babies.
So, looks like they had evidence enough not just to fire Alexis but also to lock her up for child abuse? Well, not quite. You can't present a secret solo audio recording of someone as evidence in court, and in fact, you're not allowed to make one at all. You're welcome to set up a silent nannycam in your house (even a totally hidden one, so long as it's in the living room and not one of those nanny showercams), but as soon as you start recording audio, that's when laws regulating wiretapping kick in.
But though secret recordings may not be admissible in court (or legal to create in the first place), cops don't need to tell suspects that. And when they confronted Alexis with the recording, she confessed and pleaded guilty to assault and battery. This landed her with three years in prison, plus her name on a list of people you should never hire as a babysitter. Killian is enjoying his status as a hero, and the last time the media checked in on him, he was training to be a service dog. Service dog duties generally do not involve smoking out and identifying evildoers ... but they could.
Not all heroes wear pants.
Theo Set Record For Finding Bombs Then Died Hours After His Partner
Roadside bombs were a major threat in Afghanistan back when the current war began (and also, um, even today). It was enough to demand special teams just to spot the bombs, and the best possible team consists of not just soldiers but a soldier partnered with an expert dog. The British Army has a unit called the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, and the most successful bomb-searching team was Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo the English Springer Spaniel.
The pair found more bombs than any other team, and they otherwise spent their time sniffing out weapons caches. They were successful enough that the military created a special video showing them off, and while we'd love to share it with you, our search for it turned up only endless videos of Teen Wolf's Theo and Liam, who a lot of fans evidently think should be sleeping with each other. Theo (the dog, not the teen wolf) was set to ship back from Afghanistan, but he'd been doing so well that they decided to extend his tour by one month.
And so came March 1, 2011. Liam and Theo were on patrol outside Nahr-e-Saraj in Helmand province. A firefight broke out, and a Taliban sniper landed a hit on Liam. He died with Theo at his side. Theo emerged unscathed from the skirmish, it seemed at the time. But a couple hours later, back at the base, he lay down and died. Sources variously describe his cause of death as a seizure or a heart attack, because war doesn't leave a lot of resources handy for accurate dog autopsies.
"Military officials won't go so far as to say Theo died of a broken heart," is how the AP reported on the death, but we'll also offer you this insistence from Liam's mother: "I would like to believe he died of a broken heart to be with Liam." Your interpretation of the matter comes down to how sentimental you are, or just what kind of a Teen Wolf fan you classify yourself as. The remains of both soldiers returned to England on a single plane, and Theo received a posthumous medal for being a good boy.
Figo, Who Threw Himself At A Bus To Save His Owner
And here we have a story of another hero guide dog for the blind. This one was a golden retriever named Figo, and his owner was New Yorker Audrey Stone. Figo was leading Audrey across the street when a school bus barreled toward them at the intersection. The bus driver, unlike Audrey, was not officially visually impaired, but he still failed to see them.
By the time the bus was upon them, there wasn't much time to get out of the way. So Figo did the next best thing: He threw himself directly at the bus. This put himself between the vehicle and Audrey, and it wasn't exactly normal behavior for a dog. As the police chief pointed out, though dogs will certainly attack intruders and other living threats, it's not normal for a dog to attack a motor vehicle. Chase a motor vehicle, sure, but very rarely do they attack one head-on.
The only problem is, throwing yourself at a bus doesn't really stop it. The bus hit Audrey anyway. And it hit Figo too. So, this story is a tragedy.
Just kidding! Audrey recovered fully and credits Figo with saving her life. And Figo also recovered fully. They gave him a cast with tiger stripes on it, because he's a beast and dog-of-the-year material. Really -- the ASPCA presents a Dog of the Year award, and in 2015, they gave it to Figo, because if you're going to fight a freaking school bus and live, you totally deserve an award for it.
Top image: Ministry of Defense