Dogs of Valor: Real-Life Lassies Compete for Hero Award

March 10, 2010 | By Robin Wallace | Category: Heroes | 18 comments
Tags: heroes, contests & sweepstakes

Calamity Jane, a three-legged dog, earned a "Dogs of Valor" award nomination after saving a neighbor family from a violent home invasion. (Photo Courtesy of Homer and Shar Pauley)

NEW YORK — The phrase is as old as the sun — "man's best friend," exemplified by TV stars like Lassie, have always captured our hearts for the heroics that only a human-canine bond can create. But these extraordinary feats of loyalty are not just for the silver screen. Ordinary dogs often perform acts of heroism — just ask Calamity Jane.

This foster dog was still recovering from having her leg amputated — a delayed consequence of an old gunshot wound — and giving birth to a litter of seven, when she stopped a violent home invasion at a neighbor's residence during her walk with foster mom Shar Pauley. Calamity Jane is certainly a hero, but she is not alone.

"We received almost 100 nominations, which is pretty amazing when you realize that all of these dogs are responsible for saving at least one person's life," said Colin Berry, Director of Innovations for the third annual "Dogs of Valor" contest, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.

Nominations came from 31 states and have been narrowed down to 10 finalists. The "People's Hero" award is now open to the public's voting until Friday, March 12 at 5 p.m. EST. While official winners will be announced on Monday, March 15, the Valor Dog of the Year will be chosen by a panel of celebrities.

The panel includes Kristin Bell, who played a mysterious character with special powers on the hit show “Heroes;” Sally Pressman, whose character on Lifetime’s “Army Wives” adopted a stray dog who saved a soldier’s life in Iraq; and Jay Kopelman, a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who brought a puppy back from Iraq and wrote “From Baghdad With Love” recalling the experience.

"The Dogs of Valor Awards are one way the HSUS celebrates animals and the incredible bond they share with humans," Berry told Zootoo Pet News. "In this case, we're honoring dogs who have acted beyond their own needs and wants, demonstrating that dogs are intelligent creatures who have the ability to reason and act courageously on behalf of others."

Calamity Jane is only one such nominee and finalist, and nine other heroic animals share the honor with her. Meet this year's Dogs of Valor Finalists:

Benson (Binghamton, N.Y.) — Barked and alerted his owners to a fire across the street, giving them time to run to their neighbor’s home and awaken the family before the house was consumed by flames.

Jackson (Rahway, N.J.) — Cried and ran through the house, alerting his owner to a 90-year-old neighbor who was trapped by a door that had fallen, knocking her to the ground.

Jobe (Omaha, Neb.) — Ran through the home and howled, awakening the family to alert them that their son, who has life threatening allergies, was in respiratory distress.

Kenai (Erie, Colo.) — Awakened owner to alert him to a carbon monoxide leak in the vacation home where he, six other adults, two children, and three dogs were sleeping.

Max (Little Neck, N.Y.) — Barked incessantly, leading his owner to investigate and discover that his neighbor’s 89-year-old mother had collapsed in the garden on a sweltering 91-degree day.

Milky Way (Rushford, Minn.) — Scratched feverishly at a closed bedroom door and alerted a woman that her sister had suffered a stroke and collapsed in another room.

Porkchop (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) — Bayed and barked until he got a neighbor’s attention, leading her to find his 71-year-old owner who was unconscious after collapsing and accidentally detaching the tube from the oxygen tank on which he depended to breathe.

Prozac (Sanford, N.C.) — Barked and alerted family when a 94-year-old woman began having difficulty breathing. Two months later, he awakened his pet sitter and her granddaughter, alerting them to a fire in their attic.

RaeLee (Tampa, Fla.) — Barked and ran down the hall, leading his owner to her son who was purple and seizing with blood streaming from his nose and mouth.

Calamity Jane (Aledo, Texas) — Scared away intruders by ferociously barking and growling outside a home where a family and their guests had been held at gunpoint for nearly an hour.

To vote or to read the complete stories of these Dogs of Valor nominees, visit

To watch our Zootoo Pet News story on last year's People Choice winner, click here:

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Comments (13)

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Denise L.

Denise L.
5 years ago

Wow...too difficult to choose one-they ALL are heroes!

Good Point | Reply ›


5 years ago

I wish I could enter Skitters in this she might be a small rat terrier but she is definetley a real life Lassie. When my blood sugar is low or high she always knows and nudges me if I don't feel like it's low or high so that I will check it she also does this when I am asleep and it is low or high and I don't wake up on my own to check it. When I walk Skitters or go out in the backyard with her she knows where the stray cats are and the animals in distress are and lets me know by leading me to them. When she runs loose in the fenced backyard she will come to the door if she has found an animal in distress in the backyard and bark and if I go out there then she takes off across the yard to show me she won't hurt them even if they are a cat or a bird she will just leave them be so I can help them. Also once when my cat Shorty got outside and ran off I could not find him I knew without him I would be unable to sleep and be horribaley worried about him so I opened the back door to the backyard and told Skitters to go and get Shorty she took off out into the yard and when she returned Shorty was right next to her and they both ran inside the house. What makes all this even more amazing is that I never trained Skitters to do any of this stuff at all she just started doing it as a puppy after we brought her home. Also it only took a couple of days to potty train her that is how intelligent she is.

Good Point | Reply ›

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