Friday, 25 March 2011

Top 10 Heroic Animals

Video recently surfaced of a dog who refused to leave behind an injured hound amid the devastation in Japan. Animals have often shown bravery in extraordinary circumstances. TIME takes a look at some of history's most courageous animals

10. Magic the Miniature Mare

miniature_horse 01 Sometimes heroism can come in the quieter, more unassuming guise of a miniature therapy horse (such as the one seen above). Magic, a blue-eyed mare, regularly visited patients who needed comfort, whether in group homes, hospitals or hospice-care facilities, but one particular interaction gained her recognition as AARP's Most Heroic Pet in 2010. Magic went to visit a patient who had lived in an assisted-living facility and hadn't spoken to anyone during her three years there. But the moment she laid eyes on Magic, she said, "Isn't she beautiful?" Those first words caused the staff to break out in tears, and she continued to communicate from that point onward. The Florida program that brought the two together, Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses, continues to work its magic in the Sunshine State.

9. Japanese Rescue Dog

dog_japan_tsunami 01

Amidst the chaotic, haunting images that have defined news coverage of Japan since the earthquake hit on March 11, a heartwarming scene emerged last week. A video captured a haggard dog standing guard and protecting an injured companion in the middle of a mutilated landscape, occasionally offering a comforting stroke of the paw. It took rescue workers an hour to convince the sentry to leave the ward. The injured dog was then taken to a clinic, the other to a shelter. The world was left with a heartening lesson: Sometimes a dog can be another dog's best friend, too.

8. Moko the Dolphin

moko_dolphin 01

In the summer of 2008, Moko the bottlenose dolphin was a constant fixture at a beach along the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, coming by every few days to play with swimmers. But one day her visit was more business than pleasure when she showed up just in time to save two beached pygmy sperm whales. Successfully doing what humans could not, Moko seemed to communicate with the two whales and lead them safely back into deeper water. Had the dolphin not shown up, rescuers said, the mother whale and calf likely would have been k*lled as they had resisted human attempts to herd them to sea. "I don't speak whale and I don't speak dolphin," Conservation Officer Malcolm Smith told the BBC in 2008, "but there was obviously something that went on because the two whales changed their attitude from being quite distressed to following the dolphin quite willingly and directly along the beach and straight out to sea."

7. Simon the Cat

simon_cat 01 Aboard a British Royal Navy ship sailing down China's Yangtze River, Simon the Cat — a long-time favorite of the sailors on the H.M.S. Amethyst (seen above) — was hit by shrapnel as a result of an attack by Chinese Communist forces. Simon was injured in the leg and back, and his whiskers were singed off. Some of the sailors didn't think he'd make it through the night. But eventually, Simon recuperated enough to wipe out a massive rodent infestation on board the ship, eventually taking down an enormous rat the sailors named Mao Tse Tung. Later, his exploits became known around the world; he even managed to garner a TIME obit. In August 1949, Simon was awarded the Dickin Medal, which honors animals in wartime.

6. Trakr the Dog

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Trained as a police dog in Halifax, Nova Scotia — where he worked for six years, helping to find more than $1 million in contraband — Trakr had retired in May 2001 before he and his trainer, Canadian police officer James Symington, drove 15 hours to help recovery efforts in New York City following the Sept. 11 attacks. Trakr was credited with locating the last survivor found beneath the rubble. Two days after arriving and searching for survivors the entire time, Trakr collapsed from smoke inhalation, exhaustion and burns and was treated for his injuries before returning to Canada. Later in life Trakr suffered from a degenerative neurological disorder that experts say could have been caused by his work at Ground Zero. Before Trakr died in April 2009, his DNA was entered into a cloning contest by Symington and was later chosen for use. In June of that year, five cloned Trakrs were born.

5. Scarlett the Cat

scarlett_cat 01

Though Cats was in the middle of its Broadway run in 1996, New York City's most famous feline that year made a more daring play out in Brooklyn. Scarlett, a homeless calico, had been staying with her 4-week-old kittens in a garage that had been damaged in several fires. The shelter again went ablaze and one firefighter arrived on the scene to find Scarlett amidst her brood, terribly burned from having carried them out one by one. The story quickly hit the tabloids and more than 1,000 offers to adopt the entire family rolled into the shelter where Scarlett was staying. She eventually found a home with a local woman and then spent her days being pampered and courted by the likes of talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael until passing away in 2008.

4. Cher Ami the Pigeon

cher_ami_pigeon 01 Pigeons aren't often thought of as the smartest of our feathered friends, but the incessantly cooing, bread-crumb-eating birds have their uses. During World War I and World War II, the U.S. military enlisted more than 200,000 pigeons to conduct surveillance and relay messages. One such pigeon, Cher Ami ("Dear Friend" in French), flew for the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during WWI. He flew 12 important messages before being struck by enemy fire. Despite being shot in the breast and leg, he managed to deliver the message, which was found dangling from his shattered leg. His brave dedication to the mission led to the rescue of 194 soldiers in Major Charles Whittlesey's "Lost Battalion." Cher Ami, who died in 1919, likely as a result of his battle wounds, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre award for his heroic service and was inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame. His one-legged body is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History's "Price of Freedom: Americans at War" exhibit in Washington, D.C.

3. Stubby the Dog

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Stubby was just another stray dog before he found his way into an area near Yale University where the 102nd infantry, Yankee Division was training for World War I. Private J. Robert Conroy found the puppy there in 1917 and named him Stubby on account of his short tail. Although animals were not allowed in the regiment, Stubby was allowed to stick around because he was smart and boosted morale. He learned the bugle calls, the drills and even a modified salute where he put his right paw on his right eyebrow. Later he proved his usefulness at war. Conroy smuggled the pooch aboard a ship to France, and when he was discovered by Conroy's commanding officer, Stubby won him over with an adorable salute. He was allowed to join the soldiers on the front lines, where he was once injured during a gas strike. Having developed a sensitivity to the smell of gas, he was able to save the soldiers as they slept through another gas attack. He even thwarted a German soldier's attempts to map out the layout of Allied trenches by biting him on the leg and subduing him until U.S. soldiers arrived. By the end of the war, Stubby had served in 17 battles and had developed a knack for locating his wounded comrades. The dog became a lifetime member of the American Legion and later became Georgetown University's mascot when Conroy went to study law there. In 1921 the pooch was awarded a gold hero dog's medal that was commissioned by the Humane Education Society. He lived until 1926.

2. Bucephalus the Horse

horse_alexander 01 Bucephalus was the famed steed of Alexander the Great. As legend has it, Alexander broke the wild horse when no one else dared go near — not by force but by turning the horse's head toward the sun, understanding that Bucephalus was simply afraid of his own shadow. No one but Alexander could mount the horse after. As one history puts it, "Long did this noble animal share the toils and dangers of his master; and this was the horse that Alexander delighted to honor." So excellent was Buchephalus in battle that when he was once lost, Alexander is said to have threatened the destruction of an entire country unless he was returned (which he was).

1. Togo the Sled Dog

togo_sled_dog 01

In 1925, a ravaging case of diphtheria broke out in the isolated Alaskan village of Nome. No plane or ship could get the serum there, so the decision was made for multiple sled dog teams to relay the medicine across the treacherous frozen land. The dog that often gets credit for eventually saving the town is Balto, but he just happened to run the last, 55-mile leg in the race. The sled dog who did the lion's share of the work was Togo. His journey, fraught with white-out storms, was the longest by 200 miles and included a traverse across perilous Norton Sound — where he saved his team and driver in a courageous swim through ice floes. Togo, we salute you.

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