There’s a reason why we call them our best friend. Roselle the guide dog was enjoying 40 winks under the desk of her master Michael Hingson on the 78th floor of the North Tower when terrorists exploded a jet into World Trade Center, but the composed canine had the smarts to lead the blind man down 1,463 stairs to fresh air and freedom.
Seconds after Afghan insurgents killed Pfc. Colton W. Rusk in Dec. 2010, his grief-stricken military war dog Eli crawled on top of him protectively. Eli was the first survivor listed in Private Rusk’s obituary, and sprinted straight to his late handler’s room when the soldier’s parents adopted him and brought him to their Texas home for the first time.
A dog also brought down a devil. President Obama personally thanked the mighty Seals who killed Osama bin Laden, but only one elite commando was identified by name — Cairo, the military canine who led the troopers to the doorstep of the world’s most wanted terrorist.
Aug. 26 is National Dog Day, and a time to remember Roselle, Eli, Cairo and all the other trusty hounds who make our world a more wagnificent place. They are the eyes of the visually impaired. They help cops nab the bad guys. They labor around the clock to bring us comfort and joy.
Upstate seniors Eve and Norman Fertig were tending to sick birds on their property in the fall of 2006 when a snowstorm plunged the crisp day into a wintery nightmare, trapping the couple in a wilderness of snapping trees. Both were prepared for the worst when their pet pooch Shana sprang into action. The half-wolf, half-German shepherd spent hours digging a tunnel back to their home and sledding the pair to safety, receiving an award for her bravery.
The patron saint of children is a tail-wagger, too. Lore has it that a 13th-century French knight left his dog Guinefort in charge of his baby son, but returned home to find the infant missing. Enraged, he killed the pooch thinking he had eaten the newborn. But the templar learned of his error when he found the tot gurgling happily next to the remains of a mutilated snake. Grief-stricken, he buried the dog in a well and graced it with a shrine.
An iconic canine is also immortalized in Central Park. A statue of Balto the sled dog stares imperiously at visitors from a rock outcropping north of the children’s zoo, in a testament to his heroic journey through a blinding blizzard across 674 miles of harsh terrain to deliver life-saving medicine to Alaskans during a diphtheria epidemic in 1925.
On Aug. 26, send an appreciative woof to these smart and soulful creatures. They improve our lives, shape our fates, and shower us with love, like no other force of nature.
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