Photograph from Caters News/ZUMA Press/Newscom via National Geographic Books
Published September 27, 2013
Dog owners know how how much joy our beloved canine companions bring to our lives.
They enrich us in small and undramatic ways every day—by making us laugh, keeping us company, and offering us unconditional love. My new National Geographic book, Devoted, focuses on 38 stories about the bond between extraordinary dogs and their humans—five of which are described below. (Related: Can Dogs Feel Our Emotions? Yawn Study Suggests Yes.")
We also want to hear the story of you and your dog. Please share your photos with the National Geographic Your Shot community through October 2.
In 2003, an English policeman discovered a greyhound cowering in a locked shed. The dog was severely malnourished, filthy, and clearly abused.
The policeman took her to the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary, a place founded and run by Geoff Grewcock to care for sick and injured animals. And so an act of fate would change the life of not only a dog and a person, but hundreds of other animals as well.
"When I first met Jasmine, you could tell she had been emotionally devastated but was a gentle dog by nature," Grewcock said. "And soon, she started nurturing the other animals."
Jasmine became famous for playing mother over the years to puppies, foxes, a fawn, 4 badger cubs, 15 chicks, 8 guinea pigs, 15 rabbits, a deer—and one of her favorites, a goose.
"There are certain things only an animal mother can provide, and Jasmine provided it," said Grewcock.
Jasmine passed away in the fall of 2011, an event marked by worldwide donations made in her honor to the sanctuary, which continues to care—if not with Jasmine's personal style—for animals in need.
"Her passing was so sad," said Grewcock. "But she was a legendary animal, and her legacy continues. "
Thanks to Wilma, Steve Sietos may very well be the world's only fireman/herbalist/energy healer. It was love at first sight when Wilma the pit bull was brought into Sietos's Brooklyn firehouse. She was hungry and sick, her hair was matted, her tongue hung out at a weird angle—but she never stopped wagging her tail. (Take National Geographic's dog quiz.)
But after Wilma was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Sietos went bankrupt spending $8,000 on futile treatments.
"I said to myself, 'No more vets,'" he said. "I started researching herbs and flower essences that help immune systems, and that was the beginning of her healing."
It was also the beginning of Sietos's additional career as a clinical herbalist. He now helps both animals and people.
As for Wilma, she's improved and has taken on a role usually reserved for dalmatians: Firehouse Fido.
Wilma was rescued by the captain of Steve Sietos’s firehouse; Sietos later adopted her.
Photograph courtesy Brad DeCecco, National Geographic Books
A little enthusiasm can take you far—in the case of Pearl the black lab, all the way from a California pound to Haiti.
At the animal shelter, a group that trains seeing-eye dogs saw promise in her. Then they got to know her.
"Halfway through testing her, the rescue said, 'This dog is way too hyper,'" said Pearl's owner and handler, Los Angeles firefighter Captain Ron Horetski.
That was music to the ears of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, since search and rescue missions require round-the-clock work and a "Wait, I'm just getting going!" attitude. (Watch a video of working dogs.)
After arduous training, the pair was deployed in 2010 to earthquake-stricken Haiti as part of the first ever international canine search and rescue team. The pair also traveled to Japan after the 2011 tsunami.
When at home, Pearl accompanies her owner 24/7, as part of the program's guidelines, but "she's a work dog, so she's not on my lap watching TV at night," said Horetski.
"And we don't go to the dog run to play, because she needs to be ready and have the energy for an emergency. But she's so much more than a pet to me. She's my partner."
Pearl, a Labrador retriever who lived in a shelter, is a search-and-rescue dog who helps after natural and man-made disasters.
Photograph courtesy National Geographic Books
Sometimes, in order to really listen, it helps when you can't hear anything at all.
That's the case with Luca, a deaf pit bull whose gift as a therapy dog comes from what others might perceive as a disability.
Luca, who was adopted as a puppy from a shelter, was trained by his owners, Brooke Slater and Dave Goldstein, to make constant eye contact so he could follow their signed commands.
For the at-risk or disabled youths with whom Luca now interacts, that can often mean feeling—and being—recognized for the first time. "He doesn't give these kids a choice but to make eye contact, because he walks right up to them and demands it," said Slater.
Luca—who inspired Slater and Goldstein to start Bruised Not Broken, a Facebook page devoted to pit bull rescue that has more than 100,000 followers—is also an ambassador.
"We are part of a program that teaches empathy and compassion. When Luca walks in the room and they see a pit bull, kids hit the deck screaming," Slater said with a laugh.
"So the first lesson is, 'No prejudice. Decide how you feel after spending time with him.' This is the work he was born to do."
Luca is a deaf pit bull whose gift as a therapy dog stems from what others might perceive as a disability. Even though Luca is deaf she has learned to follow her owners’ instructions by their special hand signals.
Photograph courtesy Josh Ferris, National Geographic Books
The joy a dog can find in comforting the stricken has transformed the Winokur family, whose adopted son, Iyal, displays symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome.
The teenager, who has damage to his brain and central nervous system, experiences rages, delayed emotional growth, and sleepless nights—all of which were undoing a family exhausted by a decade of round-the-clock care.
But within 24 hours of being paired with Chancer, a golden retriever, the family's lives were transformed. On his first night in their home, he crawled into Iyal's twin bed to sleep beside him; after years of nocturnal disruptions, the entire family finally slept until the sun came up.
Now, when Iyal has a temper tantrum, Chancer nestles next to him or lies on top of him to soothe him, and "the rages don't escalate the way they used to and they don't last as long," said Iyal's mother, Donnie Winokur.
Chancer also makes it easier for the family to enjoy their relationships with the teenager.
"I have a child with a severe disability but a huge kind heart and soul—and it's about making sure we have access to that heart and soul," says Winokur.
"Chancer helps us do that."
Chancer is the first service-trained dog for people living with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Service dogs can help children born with FAS improve self-confidence and independence.
Photograph courtesy Bill Simmons Photography/National Geographic Books
Dogs, ah dogs. I have lived with and loved dogs since childhood and, when it is time to say goodbye because of illness or accident, and that fateful decision must be made for the sake of the beloved dog, the heartbreak felt is unbearable but I honour my dogs by writing a short piece, I would like to share this with you in memory of a a good dog.
The Irish ambassador .
An Irish ambassador has died, you won’t know his name, you probably have never heard of him, but behind the scene, his name was know to a small group of people and he was dearly loved and well respected. He wasn’t famous, he wasn’t a politician or a banker. He wasn’t a movie star, he hadn’t written a world’s bestseller. He didn’t own a yacht or a villa in Barbados. He didn’t even have a paid job or a pension. What he did have was a tremendous joy in life, what he did have was of huge influence on people and yes, on their dogs. What he had was priceless, no value could be set on it.
You see, this Ambassador was not a person, he was a dog. A dog of a certain breed, one of the “feared and aggressive” breeds. A breed never to be trusted, certainly not with kids or adults for that matter. A breed so misunderstood and feared that they must always be muzzled when out in public. The breed? A Rottweiler , yes, one of those.
This gentle teddy bear of a dog, this dog who was kept as a “guard dog” in a dismantlers yard, to protect against “intruders or thieves” , was utterly useless as a guard. Why? Because he was terrified of his owner and scared stiff of people. This soft-hearted dog was misunderstood. He just had the normal temperament of a good dog, a good dog that was not kept in good conditions, who was fed scraps and the odd bone. A good dog that was so used to being kicked that he would not make eye contact with anyone. A good dog, who, when I first saw him, shivered in fear when I approached him. A good dog who managed, through sheer courage and desperate need, to come close enough to me to allow himself to be touched. This good dog broke my heart and some days later I returned and, after much haggling on the owners part, took him home with me for the small sum of €150.00.
This good dog had never met cats, this good dog never harmed a hair on their heads. This good dog became an Ambassador for his breed. This good dog played with every dog he met when walking in the woods. This good dog managed, through his absolute love of people, to overcome their fear and prejudice. This good dog made many friends in his area, adults, children and dogs loved him. This good dog, in the short time he had with us, changed the perception of the breed and people were impressed at his friendliness and his charm. This good dog became a friend to many dogs and people. This good dog was always greeted by name and his master was greeted as an afterthought. This good dog was well known in his locality, this good dog was impressive in size and in spirit. This good dog was impressive because of the lasting impressions he left with everyone who met him.
This good dog was diagnosed with bone cancer in early September and this good dog could not be saved. This good dog was only three years old when he came to us and this good dog was only six years and ten months when he left us on the 23rd December 2013. On that fateful day we had to make the heart-wrenching, gut-churning decision to let him go. He told us it was time and we knew it was, he did not want to go for his walk in the woods. His eyes clearly expressed his sadness and so we did what had to be done, even though saying goodbye tore us apart inside. Two surgeries to remove the dead tissue in his jaw and many, many pain relief tablets bought him time for a while and he enjoyed his life right up to his last day. He was still chasing deer in the woods and returning from the chase with his happy face but on that day sadness was all he showed.This good dog was, at times, the most stubborn and wilful dog I have known. This good dog was also the clumsiest dog. This good dog was loving and gentle. This good dog loved life, his people and all who encountered him. This good dog impressed the vets by his exceptional well-behaved manner and the fact that they could do whatever they wanted to him, he would not bat an eyelid.
This good dog allowed his teeth, eyes and ears to be examined without a murmur. This good dog sat patiently in the surgery while the vet examined another of my animals.
This good dog was just that, a good dog. This good dog was our dog, our dog that wagged his stump of a tail every time we looked at him. This good dog greeted the cats with a sniff every time they returned home. This good dog loved his food and treats and lying by the fire and rooting for rubbish in the woods, This good dog begged for food from workers in the woods. This good dog always got some of their lunch. Over the years, many people have told us that Bruno had inspired them to go out and get a dog. This good dog has left such a gap in this household and in our hearts and in our lives. This good dog was loved. This Irish Ambassador did not have a state funeral, there was no champagne, no caviar, and no bugle call over his grave. This good dog will live on, in our hearts and in our minds. This good dog was a Rottweiler. This good dog was our beloved dog.
From The Corner of My Eye
Sometimes, from the corner of my eye,
I see your shadow, but know you’re not there.
There is no substance to you now,
Only your memory remains. Still you exist.
I have felt your presence, but cannot see.
You liquefy in a teardrop, and in my mind’s eye
I see you clearly. The past rolls away.
Still you exist; your eyes clear brown pools of love.
Memory lives, and while I live you will never die.
Still you exist. December, a time to remember.
Dog, vet and death too. Arms missing your warmth.
You sleep, but weave your shadow over me.
The days have passed, yet you remain,
Close in my memory. Still you exist.
Sleep on, my dog, sleep on.
I have a great bond with my dog. She gets so excited when I come home, is my devoted running partner and loves to lay down on the couch with me. She is truly a special animal. Why can't people be like animals? Animals forgive, even when the hurt seems unforgivable. My dog was a rescue and her original owner abused her. She has since become a strong, independent dog and loves to run. She is truly the sweetest thing!
Gentlemen of the Jury:
The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.
The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wins, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies.
And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad, but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in death.
---George Graham Vest - A Tribute to Dogs (c.1855) after winning a case against a man who killed his neighbor's dog
In my home ,i have a little puppy.I love him ,I treat him as my son .He also gives me a lot of happiness.Thank you for your article which makes me felt so warm .Now i am in Japan ,but my dog is in China ,I really miss him so much.Dogs are our friends .I love dogs forever.
I've had pets forever and presently have 3 dogs and 1 cat, I know how wonderful they are and their hearts are as big as the sky. They just live to please. People's lives would be so if they had pets. Can't get enough of them
"We learn more from our small children and pets than any guru."
Living legend, Never-Lost-a-Case Attorney and Author of 17 best selling books, Gerry Spence
Good dogs. I have a dog myself and i love her with every atom in my being. She makes a nice warm teddybear...uh...dog at night.
I loved the story of Jasmine: despite neglect and abuse, she retained her gentle nature. Perhaps dogs have souls like us, something that they bring to the world from "the source" that emanates a healing, soothing, compassionate energy. We have much to learn from the "emotional intelligence" of our canine companions. Intellectual gifts are rather empty if used without empathy.
The amazing story of Wilma, the deaf dog makes me wonder if dogs trained to expect eye contact from humans might be a great way to help children/adults with Autism begin to learn to interact with the people in their lives. Since dogs are also quick to show their unconditional love to people, this might also be well-used for people with Autism, who very often have great difficulty in understanding and demonstrating emotions.
I really love the posts here about how children with huge anger problems, no matter what the cause, can learn to trust and love from a caring dog. If we can find a way to consistently prevent overbreeding, so many of these dogs could live to be a true and very importatnt part of someone's life. My thanks for sharing this story.
Wonderful, wonderful animals. My life would not be full without the animals I have loved, every, last one.
What a great description of the width and breadth of canine abilities. We have just begun to scratch the surface of what these guys can do to help us.
Beautiful stories about what can go right :o) animals are so beautiful, and dogs are just one of the amazing species we human beings are so blessed to have around us ... how anyone could harm or abuse any animal is beyond my comprehension. Thank goodness for good people who rescue animals and give them a chance to give all the love they have to give, to people and to other animals.
When I was young my dog came to school with me, and he went back home, and came back for diner and supper, And I always wondered how
he knew the time, He was a very good dog.
Wow! It's amazing! I love animals and cannot help admiring them. I've always lived with pets all around, especially dogs and cats, since my early childhood and my heart and soul are full of wonderful memories such as these...
The last story reminds me of dog we had when I was a teenager. When my younger brothers were
adopted they both had a lot of emotional (and health) issues. One of my brothers had
a lot of anger at being abandoned by his mother. He would wrestle with
our great dane, and at some point break down and start crying and
hitting, and she would just scoop him under her and lay on him while he pummeled her with his little fists. Once he wore himself out she would stand up, lick him
and they would go off together happy. I honestly think that she is the
reason he was able to overcome his past and become such an amazing adult.
I have two dogs in my house and my life with they is very nice, i feel like a had two big friends. But as important as have big friends is to love and to treat them like a realy human.
For Indian people, the dogs are no sweet and cute.
No country has as many stray dogs as India, and no country suffers as much from them. Free-roaming dogs number in the tens of millions and bite millions of people annually, including vast numbers of children. An estimated 20,000 people die every year because of dog.
Cobras only kill 8,000 people each year in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka included. The more cruel in this canine carnage is that the first victims to severe rust are street kids, as stray at the whim of alms.
Surely, National Geographic should be expected to be able to spell breed names correctly? The dog breed is d-a-l-m-a-t-i-a-n, thus no 'o'.
There are similar stories in the book, "Chicken Soup for the dog lovers soul". I've read it over ten times and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Such wonderful, loving and compassionate animals. I'm so glad to have them in my life.
I just love knowing that the love of a good dog can and will turn a life around and positively affect everyone around. Thanks for sharing these incredible stories.....I shared them with my service dog Rylie who provides support to me that helps me live a productive and much healthier life with Bipolar disorder and major depression. She provides the calmness that I can't seem to produce for myself.
@Nicole Williams That is really a touching story. I believe angels come in very many different forms, wouldn't be surprised your great dane is one of them.
@Serge Bouvet Perhaps India should consider putting money into the neutering/spaying of these dogs, to begin preventing this terrible behavior from continuing. After reading all the stories here and from my own knowledge, I'm sure these animals could be safe and loving pets. When they become 'street dogs' if you will, they cannot learn how to show their innate love and so become wild and uncontrolled in the effort to survive. Such a sad story.
@Osiris Davidi Words of Wisdom!!! Thank you.
How to Feed Our Growing Planet
National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.
The Innovators Project
Meet some of science's most important movers and shakers—from past and present.
Latest News Video
Mazes are a powerful tool for neuroscientists trying to figure out the brain and help us learn to grapple with the unexpected.