"Lassie, go get help."
How many times have you watched Timmy, Jeff or whoever owned the famous collie in a particular movie or television show send the dog to save the day? Each time Lassie would get help and someone would return just in the nick of time.
You may think something like that could never happen in real life. Think again. Down through the centuries dogs, ranging from a tiny Minature Poodle, to a huge Saint Bernard, have saved the lives of those they loved and total strangers. Dogs have saved lives of people in wars and in everyday life. One veternarian even said without the service of dogs in the Vietnam War another 10,000 Americans would have died.
One dog hero in Italy in World War II was named Chips. The dog was responsible for the capture of 12 prisoners-of-war. Another, in World War I, a Pit Bull named Stubby, warned troops of a gas attack and held a German soldier until troops arrived.
Stubby became the most decorated canine of the war, was given two medals and the honary title of sergeant. Stubby also was invited to the White House by Presidents Wilson Harding and Coolidge.
A little known fact, dogs have served in World War II, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.
Another dog in World War II, a German Shepherd named Caesar, nine times carried messages from one point to another when the use of a radio might have alerted the enemy to the American soldiers' positions and been fatal.
Caesar also once awakened American soldiers in time to throw back a live hand grenade. Eight Japanese soldiers were later found dead as a result. Also, Caesar twice was shot at in warning Americans of the approaching enemy.
In combat dogs have alerted troops to booby traps, mine tunnels and weapons caches, as well as warned of ambushes.
"There'd be a lot more than 50,000 names on the Vietnam Wall without those dogs, and I don't think the average American even knows the role they played," Dr. John Kubisz, a veternarian on the 764th veternarian detachment in the war said. Dr. Kubisz made the comments on a website which honors the role of dogs in wars.
A memorial to dogs who served in wars was dedicated on Presidents Day, 2,000, in Riverside, California.
Dogs have saved the lives of many people in everyday life too.
In 1954 Tang, a collie from Dennison, Texas became the first recipient of an annual award for dog heroism from the Heinz Corporation.
Tang four times leaped in front of oncoming vehicles and pushed children to the curb before they could be hit. Another time, Tang planted himself in front of a milk truck and wouldn't move. When the driver got out, he found a two-year-old girl in front of the truck.
In 1996 the Seattle Times published a story that told of an unknown dog which ran every time a helicopter approached but returned every time it left. As a result, police officers Steve Kometaz and Randy Shute found a boy waist deep in a rushing stream. The dog was one of several, including the policemen, to win awards from the Red Cross for heroism.
The Seattle Times also reported a dog, Ivan, leading a three-year-old girl to safety when a house caught fire.
"He's the hero," the girl's mother said. "I didn't know he would do something like this. I guess he just loves us."
Other dogs have been honored for their heroism. Snowball, a Pit Bull, won an award from Ken-L-Ration for rescuing a six-year-old boy that had wandered into a marsh.
Through the years dogs have taken bullets for their masters from robbers, awakened the deaf who couldn't hear a fire alarm and been heroes in many ways.
One website reported a man, Joshua Gordon, had a concrete block fall on him when he was working on his car. Just like in the Lassie shows he sent a dog for help, and the dog got people to rescue him. The difference was the dog was his neighbors' not his.
Some of the most heroic dogs of all may be Saint Bernards. They reportedly saved the lives of 2,500 people during a 300 year period in the Pennine Alps at a hospice founded by monks.
The dogs reportedly found nearly frozen children, acted as guides through snow covered areas and helped clear paths. They also reportedly went on a trip with Napolean and his army during a particularly harsh winter, and not one soldier froze to death.
The next time you see Lassie, remember the idea of heroic canines isn't so far fetched after all.