Heroic Animals

A missing New Mexico hiker huddled with her cat in their sleeping bag to survive below-freezing temperatures for nearly a month. From a dog involved in the raid on bin Laden’s compound to a cow that rescued her owner from a flood, see pictures of more acts of animal derring-do.

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MIYA

Missing hiker Margaret Page, who had been lost in a New Mexico national forest for three and a half weeks before being found this week, snuggled in a blue sleeping bag with her cat to survive the below-freezing temperatures at night. The 41-year-old Page, who has a history of mental illness, was found Wednesday malnourished but well-hydrated, as there was a creek nearby for drinking water. Page ran out of food some time ago. Her cat Miya, on the other hand, went hunting. “Her cat was in better shape than she was,” said Marc Levesque, New Mexico State Police search-and-rescue incident commander.

Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images; Ben Birchall, PA / AP Photo

NAVY SEALS

Recent reports that Navy SEALs took out Osama bin Laden with the help of a military dog have canine lovers panting excitedly. According to The New York Times, the dog was probably either a German shepherd or a Belgian Malinois (breeds pictured left to right), but exactly what its role was in the raid is unclear. The paper speculates that it could have been to run down any escapees, or perhaps sniff out bin Laden himself. “Dogs are very good at detecting people inside of a building,” said the commander of the Defense Department’s Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

BLUE

New York police officer John Mallia and his dog, Blue, were walking along Ocean Parkway on Long Island, when Blue's tail perked up. Mallia immediately noticed a set of skeletal remains just feet from the highway. Over the next several days, police working with cadaver dogs discovered three more bodies, all badly decomposed, that had apparently been dumped at intervals alongside the road. Police were originally looking for a missing 24-year-old prostitute from New Jersey, and now suspect that a serial killer may be responsible for the bodies. "I don't think it's a coincidence that four bodies ended up in this area, you know? That's a good direction to go, that they were all dumped here by the same person or persons," said Suffolk County police commissioner Richard Dormer. The FBI has been called to continue the investigation.

Michael Ein / Atlantic City Press

BANDIT

Bandit was a guest in the home of the DeStefani family in Mays Landing, New Jersey, when he performed his heroic deed. His owner, the DeStefani's neighbor, was traveling to an out-of-town wedding. During the night, a hairbrush the family had left to sterilize in a pot of boiling water began to melt, eventually setting the stovetop on fire and releasing toxic smoke into their air. The DeStefani's dog was sleeping upstairs and their brand-new smoke alarms didn’t make a sound. But Bandit, a Pomeranian-poodle mix, ran into the bedroom and began barking and jumping on Mrs. DiStefani's chest until she awoke. “I smelled something strange and thought, ‘What the heck?’” she said. The family escaped with only minimal harm to their health, and Bandit’s proud owners rewarded him with a chicken for his birthday.

Johnny Crawford, Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Newscom

TARGET

Target was one of three stray dogs in Afghanistan’s Paktia province near the Pakistan border that made friends with U.S. soldiers, particularly Georgia National Guardsman Chris Duke. “A lot of us used the three of them as an escape when you’re homesick,” Duke said. The dogs proved to be more than just friends when they barked and attacked a suicide bomber attempting to enter the soldiers’ tent. The bomber blew himself up before he could get in and kill the 50 soldiers inside. After he returned to the U.S., Duke started a petition to bring the two surviving dogs, Rufus and Target, to America. Target received a hero’s welcome—even an Oprah appearance—before she went to live with a military family in Arizona. But the heartwarming story ended tragically when Target escaped from his owner’s yard and was euthanized by local animal control.

File Photo, Reuters

BHOORI

Zainab Bibi, a 70-year-old woman in Pakistan, was separated from the 30 family members she lived with when massive floods rocked Dāira Dīn Panāh in July. She was sleeping in the courtyard of her home, near the cattle pen, when the waves hit. But then her cow, Bhoori, came floating by. “Bhoori came from nowhere and I clung to her neck. We floated around for many hours.” Zainab said. “It was Bhoori that brought me to a dry spot from where our neighbors brought us here.” While Zainab made it safely to a refugee camp with her cow, her eight daughters and six sons and their spouses were nowhere to be found. “Allah Almighty will bless our Bhoori,” she said.

Mark Thiessen / AP Photo

BUDDY

Buddy, a five-year-old German shepherd, was hanging out in the family shop with his owner, Ben Heinrichs, when a spark from a heater ignited, leaving Heinrichs with flash burns on his face and second-degree burns on his left hand. Heinrichs rolled in the snow, trying to put out the flames on his body, and told Buddy, whom he had never trained, to “get help.” When Alaska state troopers responded to the emergency call, they ran into Buddy, who was beckoning them to follow him down a small side road. Their GPS had failed, so on a hunch they ran after the German shepherd and found the fire. The troopers said they felt like they were living an episode of Lassie, and they later presented Buddy with an engraved metal dog bowl. “Buddy’s a pretty shy dog, and he was several blocks away just kind of hanging out. By all accounts this is not normal behavior for him,” said a spokeswoman for the troopers. “Buddy’s not trained. This is something he did pretty much on his own.”

Brien Aho/U.S. Navy

SAN FRANCISCO’S ANIMAL TEAM

Some of our newest heroes in uniform aren’t exactly in uniform. The U.S. Navy and the San Francisco Police Department are training sea dwellers to help fight crime and terrorism. For the price of a mere few fish, Navy-trained sea lions will dive into the depths, locate underwater mines, and place a marker on them, which humans can then use to retrieve and disarm the explosive. Dolphins and seals are trained to work as a team; the porpoises swim around, locate humans lurking beneath the waves—a would-be terrorist, perhaps—and leave a marker near them, which seals then use to swim down to the bad guy and affix a shackle to his legs so humans in a nearby boat can reel him in.

Simon Mossman, EPA / Landov

RABBIT

You know what they say about big gifts and small packages? A couple from Melbourne, Australia, owe their life to their cleverly named bunny rabbit, “Rabbit.” When their home caught on fire, Rabbit located the blaze early and scratched on the couple’s bedroom door until they awoke. The husband and wife escaped unscathed from the fire, which took four crews to extinguish and did substantial damage to their home.