Our pets can feel like lifesavers just by being there for us at the end of a long, stressful day and looking up at us with their adorable, happy faces.
But when these humans found themselves in real, terrifying danger, these animals stepped up even more and became actual, real-life superheroes.
1. Kahn the Doberman Pinscher
Khan had only been a member of his new family for a few days when he saved the life of their toddler, Charlotte. While watching the two play in their yard, her mother, Catherine, was beyond shocked to see the pooch acting aggressively toward the tyke, and was even more appalled when he picked her up by her diaper and tossed her behind him. After making sure Charlotte was alright, she realized that Khan had been bitten by a King Brown snake that had been inches away from her daughter. If it had struck the small child, it would have been fatal, but luckily, Khan acted fast and was able to fully recover following an anti-venom treatment.
2. Winnie the "Wonder Cat"
In 2007, this smart tabby cat saved her human family — Kathy Keesling, her husband, and their teenage son — from carbon monoxide poisoning when a water pump malfunction in their basement created a leak in the middle of the night. Winnie sensed the change in air and rushed to Keesling's bed to wake her up. Her husband and son were completely unconscious by the time she found the strength to keep herself upright long enough to dial 911. Without Winnie, there's little chance the family would have survived.
3. A whole bunch of dolphins
There are numerous stories of dolphins coming to the aid of humans in distress, but none quite as harrowing as surfer Todd Endris's. While out trying to catch some waves, Endris instead got caught in the jaws of a Great White shark. Describing it like "trying to fight a car," the already badly wounded surfer was saved from the shark coming back for seconds when a group of dolphins created a wall between him and the beast, allowing him and his friends to swim back to shore.
4. Dory the rabbit
Even though his wife is an ambulance driver trained to take quick, lifesaving action, it was Simon Steggall's rabbit who came to his rescue in 2004. While his wife, Victoria, was in the kitchen, he had seemed to doze off in front of the TV, but in reality was suffering a diabetic reaction, unable to move or make a sound. Dory sensed his predicament and began anxiously hopping and fidgeting on his chest. Victoria soon noticed the odd behavior and realized what was really going on. She called for emergency assistance when she couldn't rouse him herself.
5. Pod of porpoises
Beloved actors need help, too, and according to Dick Van Dyke himself, it was a group of helpful porpoises who came to his aid when he accidentally dozed off on his surfboard. He claims to have woken up to discover he'd floated so far out on the waves that he could no longer see the shore. While attempting to paddle himself back, he saw fins and feared the worst. But instead of sharks, he says they were porpoises who kindly ushered him back to the beach.
6. Mandy the goat
In 2002, 78-year-old Australian farmer Noel Osborne slipped on manure while outside attending to his animals. Though that may sound like the beginning of a hilarious slapstick sketch, it was anything but for the man who suffered a broken hip and became unable to move from his stinky situation for the next five days while waiting for someone to find him. He survived those days thanks to his goat, Mandy, who curled up with him during the cold nights and allowed him to drink her milk.
7. Binti Jua the gorilla
As summer came to an end in 1996, an overly curious three-year-old boy decided to climb over the fence of the gorilla enclosure at the Brookfield Zoo. He fell 18 feet to the surface below. Rendered unconscious, keepers were afraid the usually territorial creatures might make matters even worse. Instead, Binti carefully cradled the boy and brought him to the enclosure's entrance, where EMTs swiftly took over. All while her own 17-month-old baby rested on her back.
8. Three lions
Though lions would usually be assumed to be the attacker in one of these stories, it was humans who they protected a 12-year-old Ethiopian girl from when she was kidnapped from her village. After a week of being abused by the four men who had taken her hostage, three lions interfered and chased the men away. Police arrived soon after to find the young girl in shock, but unharmed by the big cats. The men who captured her were also found and taken into police custody.
9. Penny the Labrador
Brenda Owens was taking her pup Penny for a lunchtime walk along the shores in St. Ataph, Wales, when they noticed something unusual in the water: a wheelchair. Soon, they discovered an unresponsive woman bobbing nearby and, without knowing what else to do, Owens commanded her pup to "fetch!" Penny followed her order, jumping into the rocky waters and dragging the woman to safety.
10. Chi Chi the Chihuahua
Winner of Reader's Digest Hero Pet of the Year in 2009, this pampered pooch became a doggy-David Hasselhoff when he and his humans, Rick and Mary Lane, were on vacation at North Carolina's Indian Beach. While enjoying a lazy afternoon in his very own beach chair, the pooch suddenly began barking in a way his parents had never heard before. They were confused as he dragged his chair, which he was leashed to, toward the waves, and then they saw it: two elderly women were in danger of being swept away by an impending riptide. One had already fallen in, and the other, who was quite small, was straining to help her. The Lanes rushed to assist them, and after making sure the women were okay, went back to find Chi Chi already fast asleep again.
11. Ningnong the elephant
While vacationing in Phuket, Thailand, with her family in 2005, eight-year-old Amber Mason became best friends with a four-year-old elephant. She would take rides on the big guy every chance she got. On one of the last mornings of her holiday, she rushed down to the beach for one more ride, when a sudden tsunami struck. The devastating waves would have crushed the poor girl if she hadn't been safely on the back of her buddy, who rushed her to the top of the beach, where her anxious mother was grateful to find her unscathed.
12. Honey the Cocker Spaniel
Michael Bosch adopted his adorable pup following his heart surgery. He wanted to stay active while he recovered, and she turned out to be the perfect companion in more ways than one. While backing out of his home's hilly driveway, he and Honey suddenly found themselves toppling down the hill and landing upside down in a nearby ravine. Bosch was completely trapped and seriously injured, but he managed to find the strength to coax Honey out of one of the shattered windows. He waited for hours, unsure if she had even found her way to safety, when finally a neighbor appeared saying an anxious Honey had been waiting on his doorstep when he arrived home that evening.
13. Kerry Gold the horse
Life on a farm can be an exciting adventure, but things got a bit too heart-pumping for Scottish farmer Fiona Boyd when she was attempting to relocate a dairy cow and her calf to a different paddock one afternoon. The territorial mom began attacking Boyd, rushing up to her and knocking her to the ground. Just when the farmer thought she was about to be smashed by the big mama, her horse Kerry Gold marched up and kicked the cow away.
14. Toby the Golden Retreiver
Debbie Parkhurst was enjoying a nice apple snack one afternoon, when she suddenly began choking on an errant bite. Alone in her home, she attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver on herself, but her pup stepped up to save the day. Toby knocked her over onto her back and started pouncing on her chest, and soon her airway was free. Though she did suffer some paw-shaped bruises from his force, she's more than happy that the sweet boy was around in her time of need.
15. Willie the parrot
Meagan knew her parrot Willie was one of many words, some of them more colorful than others, but it was his gift of gab that saved her roommate's two-year-old daughter one day while she was watching the little one. Stepping away to use the bathroom for a moment, Meagan suddenly heard the bird screeching, "Mama! Baby! Mama! Baby!" — two words she had never heard him string together before. She rushed out to find the toddler choking on some food. Thanks to the timely alert, Meagan was able to save the youngster's life with the Heimlich maneuver.
16. LuLu the Potbellied Pig
When Jo Ann Altsman agreed to look after her daughter's Potbellied pig one day, it turned out to be LuLu who ended up looking after Altsman. The woman began suffering a heart attack, and after collapsing in pain, her husband away on a fishing trip, it was LuLu who saved the day. The pig managed to squeeze herself through the home's doggy door, suffering some cuts on her portly tummy, and stopped traffic by lying down in the middle of the road. Soon, a man stopped and followed her back to her home just in time to save Altsman from full-on cardiac arrest.
17. Kilo the Pit Bull
Staten Island resident Justin Becker has his pup to thank for his life after an intruder attempted to break into his home one evening. The man, posing as a FedEx delivery guy, tried to shove himself through the front door. Both Becker and Kilo jumped into action, with Becker attempting to shut the door and Kilo attempting to bite the attacker. When the man wriggled himself free, he let out a shot from his gun that hit Kilo in the skull and ricocheted through his neck. After the excitement calmed down, Kilo was rushed to a nearby vet clinic, where he was able to make a full, miraculous recovery.
18. Mila the Beluga whale
When Yang Yun participated in a diving contest in which participants plunged to the bottom of a 20-foot-deep arctic pool to see who could stay submerged the longest — without any breathing equipment — she knew she was in for a struggle. But when she wanted to emerge from the waters, things got even more difficult due to crippling leg cramps. Luckily, one of the beluga whales observing the competition at the bottom of the pool gave her a lift.
It's reassuring to know our animal friends have our backs when we need them the most.