By Jan Gentleman-Ingersoll
Like many people around the world I sat riveted in disbelief and horror watching
the death and destruction Hurricane Katrina imposed on Louisiana and Mississippi. I
cried with the stories of loss and tragedy so frequently played out on National News. I
cheered and celebrated with stories of victory and/or heroism. The good in tragedy, I
surmise, lies in the opportunities for people to step up and demonstrate heroism,
compassion and benevolence that otherwise would lie dormant. One such opportunity
was filled by Ross Perot when he arranged for Hurricane Katrina affected pets to be
evacuated to shelters until their owners could locate and reclaim them. As a pet lover I
cheered and celebrated his compassion and benevolence.
Some months later I heard on several national news and talk shows the
heartwarming story of yet another act of heroism. A kindly California gentleman
volunteering at a shelter housing some of the pet refugees developed an attachment to
one of the rescued dogs. When the allotted time passed for the dog’s owner to locate
and reclaim him, the kindly gentleman adopted him. One day the gentleman and his
dog were driving along the highway, in the mountains, when, for some reason I don’t
remember, his SUV dove off the cliff tumbling and rolling to a precarious stop at or near
the bottom. The gentleman found himself trapped, suspended upside down by his seat
belt which refused to release; the dog, fortunately, was uninjured and free to move
about yet also trapped inside the vehicle. “If I can’t save myself,” this kindly gentleman
thought, “at least I can save my dear friend!” So, he found a tool to jimmy his window
open just enough for the dog to slide through and escape certain death. It took six
hours to jimmy that window open. As the kindly gentleman relaxed into his own
impending death, the dog raced to the nearest home which was quite a distance away.
He approached the lady of the house, who just happened to be working in her yard at
the time, and persistently barked in such a manner that she recognized the dog wanted
her to follow him. And follow him she did back to where the gentleman and his SUV
were completely hidden from easy view beneath trees and brush at the bottom of the
cliff. Had it not been for the rescued dog the kindly gentleman would have likely died
unnoticed in his hidden, upside down SUV. What a testimony to the unconditional love
and dedication pets hold for their owners! Give and receive!
The stories of my pets’ heroism, unconditional love and dedication are much
more subtle yet no less powerful and meaningful in my life. While I have never been
nor needed to be rescued in such physically dangerous circumstances and conditions as
the kindly gentleman, my pets have helped me make peace and find parts of myself I
either disowned or misplaced and am now more whole and complete than I ever was
because of their efforts. I am a better person today because of my pets love.
The following are some stories of my pets’ noble actions and efforts to teach
their human, remembered and recorded with tears of gratitude.