DID YOU KNOW
There are plenty of examples of animals saving humans yet we often forget how empathetic and brave animals can be. Too often our species dismisses them as “just animals” and does not recognize that they are in fact living, conscious beings who feel deeply just as we do.
These are just a few examples of many.
“There are documented stories of elephants finding people who were lost. In one case, an old woman who couldn’t see well got lost and was found the next day with elephants guarding her. They had encased her in sort of a cage of branches to protect her from hyenas. That seems extraordinary to us but it comes naturally to elephants.” - Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: How Animals Think And Feel
While there are many stories that illustrate animals’ empathy, the most compelling are the ones where they help humans when they clearly have nothing to gain. So many accounts detail dolphins saving swimmers from shark attacks or helping those who are drowning to stay afloat.
And then sometimes the help comes from animals we least expect, like a 150-pound pot-bellied pig. Lulu belonged to a couple, Jo Ann and Jack Altsman. In the brief year that they had her, she ballooned up to a hundred-fifty pounds, but the Altsmans had already grown attached. Jo Ann had a history of heart attacks and one morning while alone in her home another one came on. She couldn’t get to a phone and so she threw an alarm clock out the window hoping to get someone’s attention.
Her dog, an American Eskimo, barked like crazy, but that didn’t get them very far, so Lulu jumped into action. She squeezed through the undersized doggy-door, cutting up her belly in the process, and ran down to the road. She laid in the middle of it playing dead until a truck passing by stopped and the driver got out. Lulu got up and lead the curious driver up to the house. He called in and said, “Lady, your pig’s in distress!” and Jo Ann called back, “I’m in distress, too!”
Doctors said if she had made it to the hospital 15 minutes later, she would have been dead.
Or how about pit bulls, so often maligned as “bad dogs”. That’s what one woman thought about her neighbor’s pit bull until she had broken her hip and couldn’t get up. The dog heard her in pain and alerted its owner, forcing him to check her apartment. He found the woman on the floor where she had been for days. After that, her feeling about pit bulls changed quite a bit.
Pit bulls weren’t always considered a dangerous breed. In fact, in England they were used as babysitters which is why they are oftentimes called nanny dogs.
Don’t count cats out just because of their small size. When a black bear wandered into this woman’s yard, her tabby cat chased it up a tree. It sat at the base, hissing for a good 15 minutes and the bear made a break for it at the first chance it got.
It’s hard for us to know just how much animals experience, or what ways they experience the world differently than we do, but we are united by our shared compassion and so long as we have that our differences seem less important.
And while they help us, every now and then, we can help them too.