It's easy to take dogs for granted. They are part of the family, but they may seem better at lying around, barking at the cat and scratching to be let out than being useful. But inside the heart of every hearth-lying dog is a warrior, ready to defend and protect its family. Here are five examples of true four-footed heroes, destined for the canine hall of fame. Some of them were trained as service dogs, whereas others are simply pets who rose to the occasion and more than proved their worth.
1. A true American hero, golden retriever Bretagne was one of many ground zero search and rescue dogs who answered the call of duty on 9/11, helping rescuers to recover survivors from the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center Towers. Bretagne was just 2 years old then. She died at the age of 16.
2. Pit bull Lilly was walking on the railroad tracks in Shirley, Massachusetts, with her owner, Christine Spain, when Spain fell and hit her head on the tracks, knocking her unconscious. With a train bearing down on them, Lilly desperately tried to pull her inert owner from the tracks. The conductor reported hearing a "thump" as the train passed over the pair. When he could stop the train he discovered Spain was unhurt – Lilly had covered her with her own body and taken the hit. Both dog and owner survived, but Lilly suffered severe injuries that required the amputation of her right front leg.
3. Heroes come in all sizes. Buster is a petite Yorkshire Terrier, but he came to the rescue when his owner passed out, hitting his head in the fall. Buster's frantic barking awakened his owner's wife, who came downstairs to investigate and found her husband near death. She immediately called 911 and he survived, but she credits Buster with sounding the life-saving alarm.
4. Service dogs are trained to keep their cool in an emergency, but no dog could have been prepared for the task Labrador retriever Roselle took on to save her owner. She led Michael Hingson from the 78th floor of Tower One on 9/11 through the smoke, rubble and chaos. Eventually they made their way to the subway and safely to a friend's house in mid-Manhattan.
5. In a move that would have made Lassie proud, Geo, an 8-month-old German Shepherd puppy, pushed young Charlie Riley out of the path of an oncoming truck, saving his life. Geo was hit and run over instead, suffering multiple injuries, including a broken leg. But he earned the undying gratitude of Charlie and his family.