Given that we are bombarded with bad news from all over the world day after day, it's nice to learn about something cheerful and heartwarming. It's often said that dog is man's best friend, but happily this level of devotion doesn't seem to be limited to the canine species. Across the world, different kinds of animals help humans in all sorts of ways, whether by simply providing company or even by saving a person's life. We're all familiar with the image of a faithful dog staying by its owner's side no matter what, but we might not be quite so aware of the cats, pigs, and even dolphins that have proven themselves just as loyal.
Such is the bravery of some animals that there are numerous awards worldwide to recognise and honour those which have shown exceptional levels of bravery or devotion to duty. Many such awards have been won by the special animals on this list of the most heartwarming, encouraging and feel-good tales of real life animal heroes.
10 Toby the dog
At number ten is Toby the Golden Retriever, who performed the heroic and miraculous feat of the Heimlich manoeuvre on his choking owner in 2007. Toby's owner, Debbie Parkhurst, of Calvert, began to choke on a piece of apple in front of the dog, and tried to help herself by banging on her chest. When she failed to do so, the dog jumped up onto his hind legs and put his paws on her shoulders and pushed her to the ground, at which time he began jumping up and down on her chest. After the apple was dislodged, Toby licked Debbie's face to keep her conscious.
9 Unshkins the cat
The unusually named Unshkins, a cat, is at number nine. This formidable cat attempted to save his disabled owner from a run-by robbery in 2007. Peter Choyce, from Los Angeles, is wheelchair-bound because of problems with his spine. Choyce was working on his laptop outside in his neighbour's driveway, with Unshkins by his side. Two men driving by in a white car stopped, and attempted to rob Choyce - with one of the men punching him in the face and grabbing his laptop. At this point Unshkins flew at the criminal, scratching and clawing at his face, enabling Choyce the opportunity to punch the man's larynx. Unfortunately, the laptop was smashed in the ensuing struggle.
8 Belle the dog
At number eight is the seventeen-pound Beagle, Belle, who made headlines in Florida in 2006 thanks to her making a phone call to save her owner's life. Kevin Weaver has diabetes and is prone to seizures, and Belle had been trained to summon help in such circumstances. When Weaver's blood sugar dropped dangerously, Belle bit down on the number nine button of Weaver's cellphone, contacting 911. There seems to be no end to Belle's talents; she can also tell if Weaver's blood sugar is low from licking him, and paws at him to make sure he takes his own reading of his blood sugar levels, to be on the safe side.
7 Tara the cat
Tara made headlines earlier this year when she saved a child from being mauled by a vicious dog in California. The little boy, Jeremy Triantafilo, was playing on his tricycle in his family's driveway when a neighbour's dog ran up and bit him on the leg, dragging him to the ground. Tara ran at the dog, chasing him off and down the street away from the toddler. Tara's heroic input was captured on the family's CCTV camera, which Jeremy's father later put up on YouTube, where it went viral. Tara threw herself at the dog and forced it to loosen its grip on the boy, before chasing it away.
6 Roselle the dog
A truly heroic lab, Roselle the Labrador was a guide dog who saved her owner and numerous other business people when they became trapped on the seventy-eighth floor of the North Tower of the Twin Towers, during their collapse on September 11th 2001. While everyone around him panicked, owner Michael Hingson, blind since birth, was kept calm by his guide dog Roselle, who led him down the staircases of the collapsing building. As they descended the stairs, they gathered more and more panicked people who ultimately followed the Labrador to safety. The descent took approximately an hour.
5 A pod of dolphins
This entry on our list is proof that animals don't have to be owned by a person in order to save a human life. A fisherman off the coast of Puerto Princesa City in the Philippines capsized while out at sea in December 2008, and was saved by a pod of dolphins. When Ronnie Dabal's boat overturned he was left treading freezing water for hours with only a Styrofoam board to lean on. Just as Dabal was on the verge of losing consciousness, a pod of about thirty dolphins appeared, and formed a protective circle around him while nudging him towards the shore. Dabal thought, understandably, that this was a hallucination, but returned to full consciousness on a local beach at dawn the following day thanks to the dolphins.
4 Mila the whale
Another water-based rescue is that of Yang Yun, whose life was saved by Mila the Beluga Whale. Yang was competing for a job at the Polar Land Aquarium in Harbin, China, in 2009, when she ran out of breath during her dive into the icy water and was prevented from resurfacing due to cramps in her legs. Yang began to sink, and her distress was sensed by Mila, who gripped the diver by the leg and pushed her to the surface.
3 Katrina the dog
Another dog who came to the fore during a catastrophe is at number two. In 2005, during the horrific disaster that was Hurricane Katrina, the appropriately-named black Labrador Katrina proved herself a heroine in her rescue of a drowning man. While search and rescue helicopters and boats were on the lookout for people and animals alike to save, Katrina willingly risked her life in pulling an overlooked man from the rising water. The man later said that the dog pulled him to higher ground, thus preventing him from drowning. After the man's story was broadcast on TV, a team returned to look for the dog and successfully rescued her.
2 Binti Jua
Gorilla Binti Jua saved the life of a three year old boy who fell into the ape pit in Brooklyn Zoo in 1996. The child got away from his mother and somehow climbed over a barrier and fell more than twenty feet into the ape pit, knocking himself unconscious. Binti Jua, a female gorilla - then eight years old - picked up the child gently and carried him through the pit to hand him over to zookeepers, shielding him from the other gorillas. The child was taken to hospital, where he made a full recovery.
1 Kabang The Dog
In December 2011 in the southern Philippines, two little girls were playing on the street when a motorcycle appeared, speeding towards them. The girls were directly in harm's way; until Kabang - the family pet of one of the two girls - lept into action, jumping in front of the motorcycle to save the children's lives. The poor little puppy lost half of his face in the process, and he spent several months in the U.S. undergoing reconstructive surgery to his face before receiving a hero's welcome upon his return to the Philippines in 2013.