5. One Might Save Your Life
In June 2014, Joseph Phillips-Garcia, 16, was driving with his aunt, cousin, and his four-year-old king shepherd, named Sako, when the car careered off a road in British Columbia. Phillips-Garcia was thrown from the vehicle, breaking a collarbone and femur. Sako, the only other survivor, kept the teen warm by cuddling with him. That night, coyotes appeared and Sako chased them off. “You could hear them fighting and the bushes rumbling around,” Phillips-Garcia said. Sako didn’t leave the teen’s side until rescuers came, 40 hours later.
In Michigan this past New Year’s Eve, a golden
retriever named Kelsey kept her owner from freezing to death after he slipped
and broke his neck outside his house. For the entire night the pooch laid atop
him, licking his face and hands, barking until help came. Those are just two of
many tales of dog heroics. Why do they save us? “It’s due to
domestication,” says Marc Bekoff, a canine specialist. “Humans
selected dogs for the characteristics that we want.” Two of those are
loyalty and protectiveness, which often manifest themselves as a fearless
desire to save us. The biggest factors in protective instinct, says Jean
Donaldson, of California’s Academy for Dog Trainers, are breed and life
experience. Some of the more naturally protective breeds? Mastiffs, Dobermans,
giant schnauzers, and Akitas. But most dogs possess the instinct. “It’s
hard to overestimate the degree to which dogs are bonded to us,” she says.
“It’s an incredibly magical thing.”