There’s a reason why they’re called man’s best friend.
Seconds after Afghan insurgents killed Pfc. Colton W. Rusk in Dec. 2010, his grief-stricken military war dog Eli crawled protectively on top of him. Eli was the first survivor listed in Private Rusk’s obituary, and sprinted to his late handler’s room when the soldier’s parents adopted the canine and brought him to their Texas home for the first time.
At the funeral of Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson — one of 30 Americans killed by Afghan rebels in last summer’s Chinook helicopter attack — his dog Hawkeye kept mournful vigil by his casket throughout the ceremony.
And Servus, a rescue dog, was searching for survivors at Ground Zero the day after 9-11 when he fell into a 9-foot hole. When freed, Servus couldn’t breathe, he was having a seizure, and his tongue had turned purple. Vets resuscitated and released him, but were shocked to see the dog dart to a cop car assigned to transport rescue canines to the wreckage. Servus ignored repeated commands from his handler to exit the vehicle, and instead continued to help rescuers for seven more hours.
It also took a tail-wagger to hunt down the world’s most wanted terrorist, and when President Obama thanked the mighty SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden, only one of the elite commandos was identified by name — Cairo, the military war dog who led the troopers to the mass murderer’s doorstep.
Aug. 26 is National Dog Day, and a time to remember Eli, Servus, Cairo, and all the other paw-some pooches without whom the world would be a lot less wag-erific.
There are few better good Samaritans around.
Fido labors around the clock, delivering comfort and joy, helping cops nab crooks, and providing “eyes” for the visually impaired. He recovers catastrophe victims from rubble, sniffs out bombs, and puts himself in harm’s way — all for us.
Canadian Austin Forman, 11, literally had an “angel” on his side when his dog of the same name repelled a cougar attack from less than 10 feet away, jumping into the ferocious feline’s path and bearing the brunt of the attack.
A hound is even the patron saint of children.
Legend has it that a 13th century French knight returned home to find his baby son missing after leaving him in the care of his dog Guinefort. The knight immediately killed his pet, thinking he had gobbled the infant. He realized his error when he found the tot alive and gurgling near the remains of a mutilated snake. The inconsolable Templar buried Guinefort in a well, and erected a shrine upon it.
Courageous canines have also been bronzed for their bravery. A statue of the Siberian husky sled dog Balto stares imperiously from a rock outcropping north of the zoo in Central Park — the handsome handiwork of Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick George Richard Roth. Balto delivered urgent medicine to Alaska following an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925, leading mushers through a blinding blizzard across 674 miles of relentless terrain to haul the life-saving supplies.
National Dog Day is a time to send out a heartfelt “woof” to these smart, savvy, and soulful creatures, who better our lives, mold our destinies, and shower us with unconditional love like no other force of nature.
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