After being abandoned by his owners in Alabama, Butch spent two years on the street, eating garbage and barely surviving through the harsh winters. Just before Thanksgiving this year, Alicia Buzbee and her daughter found the Boston Terrier and rushed him to the vet, who shared the bad news: Butch had a swollen heart, limited lung capacity, and a leaky trachea. A humane death was the right thing to do. But first, mom and daughter decided to give Butch the best days of his life. They took him to the fire station, threw him a party in the park, let him eat cheeseburgers and pumpkin pie, snuggled with him at night, and showered with love and affection until his very last moments.

Buzbee made sure she looked into Butch's eyes as he went, and told him how much she loved him. "I want him to hear those words and see those faces of the people who love him," she said.

In November, Mikael Lindnord and his three extreme-sports team members were competing in a 10-day, 430-mile course through Ecuador's Amazon rainforest when they came across a stray dog. The team fed the wheat-colored mutt a meatball and from then on — through the arduous 24-mile hike and across the 41-mile kayaking leg — he never left their side. "Maybe he felt he wanted an adventure," Lindnord told TODAY. "He took a chance and [found] us friendly." And Lindnord returned the favor. After completing the competition, the Swede adopted the dog they named Arthur, who joined him at home after a few days in a veterinary hospital.

(Facebook.com/PeakPerformance, Krister Göransson)

Texas rancher JR Nicholson, 85, was feeling dizzy while working outdoors in November. His ranch hand called an ambulance, and the team loaded Nicholson in and set out on the hour-long journey to the hospital. About 20 miles in, the ambulance was flagged down by a driver who told them there was a dog on the side of the vehicle, on a small side-step attached to the ambulance. The dog was Nicholson's recently adopted Beagle mix, Buddy. The technicians let Buddy in, and he spent the rest of the trip by Nicholson's side. Nicholson was released from the hospital later that day.

In March, Otis Orth and his dog Amber were traversing the snowy landscape near his cabin in southern Alaska by snowmobile when the vehicle hit hollow ground and tossed Orth violently over the handlebars. The 52-year-old fisherman and carpenter managed to turn himself over, but was otherwise immobile. Amber made her way over to her owner, and nuzzled up next to him, keeping him warm through the long, freezing night. It wasn't until 1:30 the next afternoon that the sound of snow machines blared in the distance. Amber ran off in their direction and led help the 400 yards back to her owner. Orth, who has a neck injury and dislocated his arms, credits the digits he didn't lose to frostbite to his faithful Golden Retriever, who stayed by his side.


In 2012, amid the chaos of Hurricane Sandy, the James family's dog, Reckless, escaped from the backyard of their New Jersey home. Chuck and his wife reported Reckless missing and searched the neighborhood and local shelters for months, but came up empty handed. This spring, they finally decided to move on and adopt a new dog that they would give to their daughter for her birthday. When they approached the first cage of a New Jersey shelter, they were shocked and delighted to see Reckless sitting there looking up at them. "He was a little bigger than I remembered because they had fed him well," James said. "But then he was laying on my wife's feet, and I knew it was him."

(Screen shot/ABC)

In February, an intruder entered a Los Angeles home while the family was inside. Charlie, the family's dog, and her two canine siblings immediately ran after the man, who fired four shots at the pets and fled. Charlie took two of the bullets — one in her front leg and the other in her back right leg. Her owners said if it wasn't for the shepherd mix, a bullet would have surely hit one of their sons. When the family couldn't afford her medical care, they were forced to turn Charlie over to officials. But a local shelter stepped in and, with the help of a crowd funding campaign, Charlie got the surgeries she needed (one leg had to be amputated) and was reunited with her family.