5 Truly Incredible Stories Of Heroic Cats And Dogs
Cats and dogs have brought so much joy and wonder to the mundane lives of us humans. Officially the most popular pets of all time, these furry companions have become a staple in our lives and culture; from lounging on our couches, entertaining us on the big screen, and even saving lives! Here are five incredible stories involving our furry friends.
5Bob The Cat
James Bowen was a young man who was down on his luck. He had a turbulent childhood between England and Australia and had moved back to London to pursue his dreams of becoming a musician. Unfortunately, James’ dream fell through, and he ended up homeless and began using heroin to cope with life on the streets. Even though James managed to get on the methadone programme and into sheltered accommodation, his life only truly brightened when he met Bob; a ginger tom cat that he found injured near his flat.
James nursed Bob back to health, and they developed a strong bond, with Bob even joining James on his busking ventures, sitting on his shoulder. Not only did Bob’s presence draw more attention to his busking, but James felt that he had a new purpose in life in looking after him.
With Bob’s help, James kicked his heroin habit altogether; joined the Big Issue and wrote a bestselling novel about himself and Bob, titled “A Street Cat Named Bob.” Bob would eventually star as himself in the movie adaptation. James considers Bob his soul-mate and credits him for saving his life. To this day, Bob still travels everywhere on James’ shoulders.
4Roselle The Guide Dog
On September 11th, 2001, the World Trade Centre in New York was struck by two planes in a devastating terrorist attack. In Tower One, on the 78th floor, were Mike Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle. Despite the chaos, Roselle was perfectly calm, which helped Mike stay focused.
Roselle led Mike and a group of other people, down 78 floors – over 1,043 steps – to safety. When Roselle and Mike were a mere 100 feet away from the Towers, Tower Two collapsed, covering the city in a cloud of dust and debris. Mike and Roselle did not stop running until they reached a subway entrance. Roselle stayed focused the entire time, even when debris was falling on top of her and crowds were panicking.
After the events of 9/11, Mike travelled the world with Roselle, telling people of their amazing story. Roselle was awarded the Dickin Medal in 2002 and appeared with Mike on numerous talk shows, such as Larry King Live.
Mike credits Roselle with saving his life, and set up a charity in her name and dedicated a book to her titled “Thunder Dog,” which recounts their story of 9/11.
Sadly Roselle was euthanised in 2011 at the age of 13 due to illness.
3Simon The Ship Cat
During the Chinese Civil War, the UK Navy Ship HMS Amethyst docked on Stonecutters Island in Hong Kong to pick up supplies and refuel. Before boarding, a young sailor named George Hickinbottom found a tuxedo cat ambling about the docks. He smuggled the thin cat on board, where he earned the name Simon.
The cat loving Captain, Ian Griffiths, gave Simon the important job of keeping rats away from the ship’s food supplies, and let him sleep in his cap. Simon also kept the crew entertained with his feline antics. When the Amethyst travelled up the Yangtze River to help the HMS Consort, she was fired upon by the Chinese Communists. Twenty-two people died, and many were injured – including Simon, who was burned and had shrapnel lodged in his back and legs.
Simon slowly recovered and was named Able Seacat Simon after he killed a large rat despite his weakened state. He also helped cheer up the traumatised and injured sailors by visiting them in the infirmary. For the 101 days that the Amethyst was stuck on the Yangtze (in what would become known as the “Yangtze Incident”), Simon helped keep up the morale of all the crew members; even the third captain; who wasn’t a cat lover, grew fond of him.
Upon the Amethyst’s arrival back in the UK, the crew, and Simon were instantly hailed as heroes. However, he had to placed in quarantine, as was the custom for foreign animals. Unfortunately, Simon caught a viral infection while in quarantine and subsequently passed away. All of his crew members were devastated. Simon received not only the Amethyst campaign ribbon, but the Dickin Medal for gallantry – the only cat, and Royal Navy animal, to receive the award. Simon is buried at the PDSA animal cemetery in Ilford, Essex.
2Rip, The Mongrel
During World War II, London was hit by a series of air raids known as the Blitz. Reports differ, but it’s said that around 43,000 people were killed during these attacks, and 88,000 were injured. Finding bodies was extremely difficult. That was until Air Warden Mr E King came across a little terrier mix, presumably having been rendered homeless by the raids.
King threw scraps of food to the dog, hoping to steer him away, but the dog tagged alongside him, and the pair developed a friendship. The dog, named Rip, showed great adeptness at finding bodies under the rubble. With no formal training, just going by his instincts, Rip helped find over 100 bodies with the ARP in just a year. Rip would give a little yap when he found someone underneath the rubble.
Like Roselle and Simon; Rip was awarded the Dickin Medal.
After his death in 1946, Rip was buried in the PDSA cemetery. It is because of Rip that the UK trains search and rescue dogs today. Rip’s gravestone reads: “In memory of Rip, D.M., served with Civil Defence London. Awarded PDSA Dickin Medal July 1945. For bravery in locating victims trapped under blitzed buildings.”
1The Dogs Of 1925 Serum Run
In the winter of 1925, the town of Nome, Alaska was hit by a diphtheria epidemic.
Antitoxin was transferred by train to Nenana, which is over 600 miles from Nome. It was decided that sledge dogs would be used to collect the serum, and bring it to Nome. Over 150 dogs were involved in the relay, but the most well-known of these were Huskies; Balto and Togo.
Initially, it was going to be a two team relay, with Leonhard Seppala’s award winning team, led by Togo, meeting the second team at Nulato. However, a relay with 19 other teams was assigned to certain checkpoints along the trail, to speed things up. Each team faced temperatures as low as -64 degrees Celsius, and winds as strong as 65 mph. The serum eventually reached Bluff, where musher Gunnar Kaasen was waiting with his team, led by Balto.
Kaasen claims that he could barely see his hand in front of his face due to the snow, but that Balto just knew the way. Balto led the team down Nome’s Front Street at daybreak, on 2nd February, after travelling 53 miles from Bluff and the serum was delivered in a record five and a half days.
Balto became an instant celebrity. He had a statue created of him in Central Park, which is dedicated to all the dogs involved in the relay. Balto’s fame was met with much dismay by Seppala, who felt that the elderly Togo had not been recognised for his achievements.
Togo had run 261 miles overall, and traversed the deadly Norton Sound, swimming through ice flows to save his team. Seppala is on record as saying “"it was almost more than I could bear when the newspaper dog Balto received a statue for his 'glorious achievements.’”
Togo died of old age in 1929, while Balto lived in Cleveland until his death in 1933. Seppala considered Togo a true friend, and his best lead dog.
Balto was moved to Cleveland after being saved from a dime museum in Los Angeles, and his body is on display in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and Togo is displayed in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters Museum in Wasilla.
The Serum Run is honoured every year in the Iditarod Race, and it loosely inspired the Spielberg animated film, “Balto” (1995). Many people consider Togo the true hero of the Serum Run, while others think that all of the dogs are equally heroic in their own right.