Shelby was the 45th winner of the Skippy Dog Hero of the Year Award. She is a 7-year-old German shepherd who saved the life of her four owners. After a long and cold December day, the Waderbach family of Ely, Iowa fell asleep comfortably in their warm beds. Janet Walderbach woke to the sounds of her two children crying. While she was rocking one of them back to sleep, she herself fell asleep, waking up several minutes later to the nudging and whining Shelby. Since both Janet and her husband John were suffering from headaches and nausea, they put the whining dog outside. Instead of quieting down, Shelby began to bark wildly and scratch at the door. She wouldn’t stop until Janet, John and the kids were all out of the house. With everyone outside and feeling sick, the family took a trip to the hospital where they were diagnosed and treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. They later found out that the carbon monoxide level in their home measured at 280 ppm, a level that easily causes death. For her courageous actions, Skippy awarded Shelby with $500, a one-year supply of Skippy dog food, and an engraved food bowl.
Zoey, a four and-a-half pound, ten-month-old Chihuahua knows that it isn’t size that makes a hero. On a hot summer day in 2007, Zoey was playing in the backyard with her owner Marty Long and his 1-year-old grandson Booker West. All of the sudden, Zoey darted towards little Booker and the area where he was playing. Apparently, she had spotted a rattlesnake, and jumped in to take the bite for the boy. Zoey was left with a one-inch scar on her face and ran to Marty crying. Her head soon swelled to the size of a grapefruit. Luckily, Zoey got to the vet in time to save her with antivenin and blood plasma. Zoey made a full recovery and still loves to play in the yard with Booker.
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Gary Rosheisen of Columbus, Ohio lives alone, but takes many safety precautions. Since he was diagnosed with severe and painful osteoporosis and several mini strokes Rosheisen has kept 911 set in speed dial, has a cord above his pillow to reach paramedics, wears a medical alert necklace everyday, and even tried to teach his cat, Tommy, how to call 911. One morning, before Rosheisen donned his medical alert necklace, he fell onto the floor between his bed and wheelchair. From this position, he couldn’t reach the paramedic pull-cord above his bed or a phone. After a few unsuccessful yells for help, Rosheisen gave up, and lay limp on the floor. To his surprise, police soon came to the apartment. Strangely, they had received a 911 call from the apartment but there seemed to be no one on the other end. The only explanation is that Tommy made the call. Only then did Rosheisen realize that training Tommy to dial 911 had paid off. Rosheisen considers Tommy to be his hero.
Naturally, Gorillas are nurturing animals, and Binti Jua (“Daughter of Sunshine” in Swahili) is no exception. Although she is the niece of Koko, the Gorilla famous for learning to communicate with American Sign Language, on August 16, 1996 Binti Jua became legendary in her own right. That day, a three-year-old boy visiting the Brookfield Zoo of Illinois climbed over the Gorilla enclosure wall and fell 20 feet onto the concrete below, rendering him unconscious. Spectators watched in horror as several huge Gorillas curiously circled the boy. Almost immediately, Binti Jua took charge of the situation, growling at other Gorillas as they approached the boy, and finally gently carrying him to an entrance of the Gorilla enclosure, where zookeepers could retrieve the injured boy. After only 4 hours in the hospital, the boy was released and has fully recovered.
The German shepherd tank-guard Chips was the most decorated dog of WWII, and probably the most famous war dog in history. Assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, he was one of the first dogs shipped overseas, serving in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. While invading Sicily in July 1943, his handler was attacked by a concealed machine gun. Chips immediately followed the shots to an Italian pillbox where he captured 4 Italian soldiers and saved the life of his handler. That same night, with powder burns and a serious scalp wound, Chips helped capture 11 more Italians. The U.S. papers called him a hero, and General Eisenhower personally thanked him for his services. Upon returning to the States, he was awarded the Silver Star for Valor and a Purple Heart, the later has been revoked citing it as being “demeaning to service men” who were also given the award. In 1993, Disney produced a movie called “Chips the War Dog” to commemorate this great hero.
Pot-bellied pigs are one of the most intelligent and loyal pets. In October of 1998, Lulu, a Vietnamese potbelly pig heroically saved the life of her owner, Jo Ann Altsman. On October 10, Altsman suffered from a heart attack alone in her trailer. Sensing that something was wrong, Lulu went outside plopped down in front of a moving car on the road just in front of the trailer. The motorist spent almost 45 minutes trying to coax the pig off of the roadway to no avail. Finally, Lulu somehow managed to bring the driver into the trailer, where he found Altsman on the floor and immediately dialed 911. At the hospital, doctors said that if it had taken even 15 minutes longer to get Altsman to the hospital, she would have died. To thank Lulu for saving her life, Altsman gave her a jelly doughnut. Altsman became so attached to her potbellied pet that she always keeps her in the house, even though she has gone from weighing 4 pounds at the time of the incident to over 150 pounds currently.
In this day and age, if you want to be a dog hero, it’s not enough to learn how to use a home phone. You have to be able to dial from a cell phone. Belle, a 17-pound beagle from Orlando, Florida did just that to save her owners life. One day her diabetic owner Kevin Weaver had a seizure and collapsed from low blood sugar levels. As she was taught, Belle immediately found Weaver’s cell phone and bit down on the number 9 (speed dial for 911). Weaver was taken to the hospital and resuscitated. Later that year, Belle was taken to Washington D.C. to receive the first VITA Wireless Samaritan award presented to a dog. Every year, this award is given to someone who uses a cell phone to save a life. Canines are particularly good pets for diabetics as they can detect slight abnormalities in a person’s blood sugar levels with their keen sense of smell. Weaver says that Belle usually alerts him of his dropping sugar level by whining and pawing at him.
About a year ago, John and Mary Smith of Independence County Arkansas adopted a five-year-old three-legged rat terrier in-order to save her from the pound. Recently, Tripod had the chance to return the favor. One night while Tripod slept at the feet of her owners a fire broke out in their home. By the time the couple realized what was going on their bedding had already caught fire. Elderly, and slightly obese, Mary was overwhelmed by the thought of getting herself and her wheelchair-bound husband out of the flames and decided to stay with her husband to “accept their fate.” Tripod, However, didn’t seem to agree with this plan. He kept barking at them and pulling at their clothes until finally, with the encouragement of the crippled dog, the couple was able to escape from the burning home. The Smiths fervently believe that the only reason they are still alive today is thanks to Tripod.
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