Are our pets the most underrated lifesavers?
Recently I read an article about a woman from New York whose life was saved by her grey African parrot. The woman was attacked late at night in central park while exercising her bird, the bird then proceeded to squawk, swoop and eventually scare the attacker away.
As I sat, holding back tears thinking “how beautiful,” I looked over at my hopeless ragdoll cat and wondered if he would do the same for me. Then he rolled over, fell off the bed, and wandered off aimlessly.
For Mr. Darcy this is probably a big ask. But it’s quite common to hear stories of loving Staffordshire terriers diving in front of young children to save them from the wrath of poisonous snakes, or Siamese cats waking up their families to alarm them of house fires. So could your plain-Jane moggy, Labrador, or perhaps even your pet parrot save your life?
Here’s the good bit… yes they possibly could! According to animal scientist Ben Dessen, “Certain animals are capable of sensing danger in particular situations and responding in a number of ways.”
“Domestic pets such as dogs, cats and even birds often have extremely close relationships with their owners and may see them as one of their own,” he told The Newsroom.
In the same way that you or I would remove our loved ones from immediate danger, animals that have a strong bond with their owners would do the same.
So how can you turn Jack the Jack Russell into a life saving hero?
There are many ways to train your animals but you may not even have to – the best way to get your cat to dash out of a flaming building and sound the alarm is to form a strong bond with your pet.
“Animals do have the ability to show concern for beings and individuals other than themselves, particularly in times of danger,” Ben says.
Just like JoAnn Altsman’s pet pig. After JoAnn collapsed on the ground the pig proceeded to run out of the house and laid down in the middle of the road to stop traffic. Returning inside momentarily to check on JoAnn. It did this until someone followed the determined pig back inside to where the woman lay, and she was then taken to hospital.
The pig was not trained and had purely reacted on her instinct to alarm another human of the dangers present and in turn saved JoAnn’s life.
If you think that your beloved pet lacks the intuition of the piggy above then don’t fret because, according to Ben, “Many animals can even be trained to assist in times of crisis using their heightened senses such as hearing, smell and sight.”
Much like Joe Stalnaker and his German shepherd, Buddy. Buddy is an assistance dog that is trained to retrieve the phone if Joe is showing seizure like symptoms. Not only that but if Joe is unable to make the call Buddy can use his teeth to hit the speed dial 911 and did so on one occasion. The German Shepard dialled the number and whimpered into the phone until an ambulance arrived.
Ben says, “whilst each animal has it’s own unique personality and may react differently in various situations.” Dogs and pigs (which are actually smarter than your dog and three year olds) respond well to training and as such can be trained in a way that could one day save your life.
Whereas cats are far more likely to rely on instinct and their basic nature, so it is important to form a strong bond with your cats to ensure they give a damn about your continuing existence.
“Using positive reinforcement and making the training experience as enjoyable as possible are crucial elements in training any animal. Repetition and developing on the animals natural capabilities all assist in the training process.” Ben says.
For more training advice and tips have a look at the Purina website or contact your local puppy preschool (most are happy to help with training the slightly left of centre pets as well.)
Remembering that pets best respond to positive reinforcement and love and affection, if you show them the respect they deserve they will return the favour and perhaps even one day save your life! – Bree Hetherington
Top photo taken from barrie”s flickr feed.