Dog lovers like to point out that their four-legged friends are the most loyal companions a person could ever need. That loyalty can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, like in the instance of Staten Island, N.Y., pit bull Kilo, who recently put his own life on the line to save his owner from an armed attacker. Kilo isn't the first canine companion to save his owner from danger. Here, a list of eight dogs that earned extra doggie treats the hard way:
1. Kilo, the crime-fighter
On March 31, a robber disguised as a FedEx deliveryman showed up at the apartment of Staten Island resident Justin Becker, and tried to shove his way into the home. Becker tried to push the door closed to keep the thief at bay. But the assailant had a gun, and probably would have shot Becker, says Mary Fischer at The Stir, so Becker's dog, a 12-year-old pit bull named Kilo, "sprang into action." Kilo lunged, and the intruder shot the dog instead. Miraculously, the bullet ricocheted off Kilo's skull, exited through his neck, and he survived. "This is like, one in a million," Greg Panarello, whose veterinary clinic operated on Kilo, told the New York Post. "He's very lucky." The intruder got away.
2. Mabeline, the hero shelter dog
A 17-year-old girl, who was volunteering at a St. Petersburg, Fla., animal shelter last month, was in the middle of her walk with a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix named Mabeline. A male attacker, who police later learned was a registered sex offender, allegedly grabbed the girl by the hair, and pinned her to the ground. Mabeline jumped to his dogwalker's aid, scaring the man away. When Mary Callahan, the woman who adopted Mabeline, found out about her dog's brave act, she said: "I looked at my dog and I thought, 'You are a hero.'"
3. Henry, the "real-life Lassie"
Frank Walker of Clarksville, Tenn., was trying to cut down a tree by his home in March, when it fell and pinned him down for three hours. He was bleeding internally, and his left arm and leg were shattered. With seven ribs cracked, he couldn't even yell for help. His 10-year-old chocolate Labrador, Henry, stuck by his side, nudging him and keeping alert. When Henry spotted a neighbor, he ran, barking "like a real-life Lassie," and the neighbor called 911. "He's just a special dog — super dog," Walker said.
4. Grace and her life-saving nose
Even though Alice Zeitz of Newfane, N.Y., had already fostered 100 dogs, in 2011 she decided to take in another pooch before the holidays. She wound up with a black mixed breed named Grace who had been left tied to a stop sign along with her puppies. One day, just before Christmas, Grace started barking and running back and forth to the basement. It turned out the washing machine had caught on fire, and Grace, with her keen nose, noticed before the smoke detector went off. With the early warning, the family was able to put out the fire before it did serious damage. And Grace's foster family adopted her for good.
5. Hercules, the instant asset
Last year, Lee and Elizabeth Littler of Baltimore adopted their St. Bernard Hercules after they found him at an animal shelter. The pooch was underweight and "looked awfully beat up," said Elizabeth Littler. Hours after they adopted him, saving him from being euthanized, Hercules returned the favor and came to their rescue. The dog started barking for seemingly no reason, but then he ripped through a screen door to chase a man who had been trying to break in. The intruder got away, but not before Hercules had chomped on his foot.
6. Angel, the "angel"
In 2010, 11-year-old Canadian boy Austin Forman was outside with his 18-month-old golden retriever Angel, when a cougar came hurtling toward them. The boy had no time to react, but Angel did. The dog threw herself between Austin and the cougar. Angel was nearly killed, but a police officer shot the cougar, and saved Angel. "She was my best friend, but now she's even greater to me," Austin said of his canine pal. His father Jay Forman agreed: "He was saved by an angel."
7. Danny, the hero foster pet
An elderly Arizona woman, Bethe Bennett, took a severe tumble in her home in February, breaking her leg. She lay unconscious, waking up only after a service dog she was fostering — a miniature Schnauzer named Danny — licked her. Bennett couldn't get up, and realized it would be days before anyone stopped by. "I really thought I was going to die," she said. But Danny brought her a telephone, and she was able to call for help.
8. River, the snake-killer
Two Australian girls, 7-year-old Michelle Lynch and her 2-year-old sister Kaylee, were headed to their swing set when their dog, River, spotted a 2-foot brown snake slithering nearby. "River came bursting out and jumped on the snake," Michelle said. "They're a pack animal," says the girls' mom, Catherine Lynch, "and we're their pack so it's definitely their instinct to get in there, especially when kids are involved." The poisonous reptile bit River, causing him to suffer paralysis a few hours later, but the Lynch family was able to get the 18-month-old dog to a vet, who administered an anti-venom. River made a full recovery.