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!
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
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.
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