Dogs have been referred to as “Man’s Best Friend” for as long as anyone can remember because they fill a unique role that no other creature can. These remarkable animals have an incredible ability to relate to humans with intense loyalty and insight.
A few weeks ago, a news story came out from Los Angeles where two Labrador retrievers made headlines. Apparently, the Labradors had wandered from home and made their way into traffic. One was hit and killed, and the other stayed loyally by her side as cars zoomed all around. A concerned passerby stopped, placed traffic cones, and called the authorities to come take her in out of harm’s way. (See story and videos here: http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-Labrador-stays-by-friend,0,1719168.story) .
I could write a LOT about their owners’ irresponsibility…. But that’s a whole other story!
This dog risked her own safety while displaying loyalty towards a downed companion.
Labradors have the reputation of being overly joyous social butterflies that will interact and play with anyone. In fact, this is one of the primary breed characteristics that make Labradors well suited to Service Dog work.
There are other breeds that can do service work, but few breeds of dog can be as easily handed off to another handler. In many Service Dog programs, a puppy goes from the school to a puppy raiser’s home, then back to the school and (eventually) to their owner/handler’s home for service work. During that time the puppy/dog will have to be handled by many different people in order to learn the skills he will need as a working Service Dog.
Consider “Roselle,” a Seeing Eye dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Her human partner, Michael Hingson, worked on the 78th floor of Tower One at the World Trade Center. Partnered together since 1999, their teamwork and that dog’s loyalty were put to the test on September 11th, 2001. After the Tower was hit, amidst all the chaos, Roselle led Michael (and others from his floor) 78 floors down to safety through a dark stairwell. They exited to safety only moments before the building fully collapsed. (Read more about Roselle and her passing this past year at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/6/prweb8608483.htm)
In a moment of chaos, fear, devastation, and darkness, this one dog followed her training and led her human to safety.
Dog training is never foolproof, and one never knows if training will hold up in extreme conditions where absolute safety is on the line. But at the end of the day, intense loyalty is what causes a dog to follow through no matter what… That kind of loyalty goes far beyond training… It’s based on relationship.
You may have a loyal dog that waits for you to return home and call his name. While he may not have been “put to the test” in extreme life-or-death conditions, his friendship probably meets a need for you that is special and unique.
On this Memorial Day weekend, I remember the men & women I served with in the military. I remember the sacrifices we made together… some that nobody else will ever know, and few can relate to. I remember the intense loyalty toward each other that grew out of a need to survive and persevere. And I remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice… Some of their faces are etched in my memory along with sounds and smells from a world far away.
Let’s make a point of honoring the heroes (human and canine) that have made an impact on our lives. Their loyalty and wholeheartedness serves as an example, and their memory lives in our hearts.