Canine Courage takes an in-depth look at dog heroism and loyalty. This unique book is about untrained dogs who save lives and explores heartwarming, sad and funny stories as it shows why dogs are heroic and how this behavior developed. Canine Courage examines the dog’s natural history and behavior to take a fresh and revealing look at the relationship between people and dogs.
Canine Courage explains how heroism and helpfulness developed, and why this behavior benefits the dog. Canine Courage looks at what motivates these dogs to help and how they know what to do. The book also looks at behaviors such as loyalty, untrained dogs that help disabled owners, dogs helping other animals, and the possibility of dog ESP.
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Canine Courage is the first book to take an in-depth look at dog heroism and loyalty in untrained dogs. Ancient legends document that people have long believed in dog heroism and loyalty, and modern stories and literature show that this belief continues today. Is this belief based on fact? Despite some obviously untrue stories, like Seymour driving his owner to the vet’s after the man suffered a heart attack at the wheel, the number of dog hero stories and the similarity over time give them legitimacy. This does not explain why one species would risk its life for another, behavior that seems to break the rules of survival of the fittest. Canine Courage explains how heroism and helpfulness developed, and why this behavior actually benefits the dog. Like a corporate protégé who trusts his career to a mentor, dogs have based their future on their relationship with people.
Dogs save people from almost every danger imaginable— including drowning, animal attacks, fire, speeding cars, being lost, and armed intruders. Canine Courage looks at what motivates these dogs to help. The book examines the importance of dog emotions and their sensitivity to our emotions. Canine Courage analyzes how dogs recognize danger and take the right action, like Max pulling a burning blanket off his unconscious owner or Lucason, a show dog who had never been swimming, rescuing a drowning child from a river. Some stories are miraculous and defy explanation, how could the dog Patsy have known to warn her owner just before the riverbank where he was standing collapsed? Canine Courage discusses conventional explanations for such stories and also considers the possibility of ESP.
Not all dogs are equally heroic and the book details which breeds are the most heroic (and the least) and why. Loyal behavior is related to heroism and Canine Courage looks at extreme loyalty such as Shep who waited years at a railroad station for his owner’s return or Bobbie who traveled hundreds of miles to find his family. Dogs that rescue people from immediate danger are not the only canine heroes. Canine Courage also looks at the quiet heroism of untrained dogs that help disabled owners. Like Sport, who in the 1920s helped his paralyzed owner achieve self-sufficiency. These dogs are the models for the trained service dogs used today, especially one of the more controversial ones, seizure alert dogs. Canine Courage examines what makes these dogs want to help and how they learn what to do without training. The book includes stories of dogs with jobs, such as firehouse dogs, canine mail carriers, even a Morse code operator.
As much as I wanted to believe in dogs like Woodie and accept Terhune’s word that the Lad stories were true, I had doubts. When I tried to be objective about dogs, which is always difficult, stories of their heroism did not always seem realistic. In nature, animal behavior always has a practical basis; I wondered what logic motivated Woodie to jump off an eighty-foot cliff. Even if her jump made sense, how did she know to push Ray’s head out of the water? Most dogs don’t even realize that when on a leash they must walk on the same side of a telephone pole as their owners. If I wanted to again believe in dog heroes, like I did as a child, I would have to prove to myself that they truly exist.
I found literally hundreds of stories about dog heroes and even came across an annual dog hero contest but perhaps more importantly, I found evidence that the behavior makes sense. Woodie helped Ray because of an ancient agreement between dogs and people. In this mutual understanding, dogs help people and in return, people help dogs. Being a valuable member of human society has guaranteed the success of the domestic dog as a species. My research led me to believe that dog heroism is real, and that the story of heroism is really the story of how the lives of two very different species have become intertwined.