Throughout much of history, when people tell stories about animals stepping up to save the day, they're typically talking about dogs. But what about other species? What about non-conventional pets who step up when needed most and save the day for their owners or other humans?
Goats, pigs, rabbits, and other pets typically never get the respect they deserve, but heroes come in all shapes and sizes... and breeds and species. These are the kinds of heroes that will save a child when it falls into a dangerous exhibit at the zoo, help a diver deal with a cramp, alert a family that their house is on fire, and sit with a farmer for five days until help comes.
Here are a few of those stories.
How would you like for a rabbit to save your life or the life of one of your loved ones? That's what happened to a British family when their pet rabbit, Dory, jumped to the rescue in early 2004. According to a January 2004 report by the BBC, Simon Steggall slipped into a diabetic coma one night watching television one night as his wife, Victoria, was preparing dinner. With Steggall in a dire condition and Victoria in the next room, it was up to Dory to save the day.
"When I have one of these turns, I can't speak or move, but I can still hear and I heard Victoria tell Dory to get down," Simon Steggall told reporters at the time. "Although she is a house rabbit, she's not allowed on the furniture. The rabbit came up on my lap and started tapping and digging at my chest and looking at my face."
It was that odd behavior by Dory that caught the attention of Victoria Steggall and helped her realize that something was terribly wrong. Once she realized that Dory's jumps on her husband's chest were more than just a fun game, she immediately called paramedics who were able to save her husband's life.
Twenty years before Harambe became one of the most circulated memes of 2016, another gorilla at a Midwestern zoo had a brief 15 minutes of fame, though for entirely different reasons.
In August of 1996, a gorilla by the name of Binti saved the life of a 3-year-old after the child fell 18 feet into the gorilla's habitat at the Brookfield Zoo in suburban Chicago. After the child fell into the habitat occupied by seven gorillas, Binti grabbed the child, cradled him, and climbed to the top of the exhibit to hand the boy over to paramedics. He was transported to the Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago where he fully recovered from the injuries sustained during the fall.
The Chicago Tribune released a follow-up story exactly 20 years after the incident, reporting that by saving the child's life, Binit became an international superstar practically overnight.
"Within a few days, camera crews and reporters from England, Germany, and Australia clamored to film Binti lounging at home," the Tribune reported in 2016. "Dozens of people offered money to "adopt" her. And a Chicago grocer offered 25 pounds of free bananas."
Binti still resides in her habitat in the Brookfield Zoo.
It is believed that as many as 227,898 people died as a result of the 2004 "Boxing Day Tsunami" in Southeast Asia, though that number could have increased by one if it weren't for the efforts of Ningnong the elephant. On December 26, 2004, Amber Mason, a young English girl vacationing with her family, would have surely been another one of those casualties if she would not have been riding on the back of the four-year-old elephant as the first waves crashed into the Thai resort where she and her family were vacationing.
According to the BBC, as the wave swept in and with water up to his shoulders, Ningnong dashed out of the waves to the top of the beach, carrying Amber to safety.
After Mason and her family returned home in the weeks following the tragedy, she told the BBC: "I think Ningnong thought something was wrong and was trying to get off the beach. Everyone was running out of the sea and my mum began crying because she thought she'd lost me."
Dogs have long been considered man's best friend, but for one Australian farmer, that designation might want to go to goats as well.
Back in 2002, Neal Osborne was knocked over by one of his cows, resulting in the 78-year-old farmer breaking his hip and getting stuck in a pile of manure in the process. Osborne laid there and fought through five brutally hot days and five bitterly cold nights with a border collie and a goat (both named Mandy) by his side.
Throughout the ordeal, Mandy (the goat) allowed Osborne to milk her into a small container so that he could stay hydrated as he awaited rescue.
"During the five days that he lay there without human help, the two Mandys watched over him, kept him company, and warmed him," wrote online blogger PetsLady. "At last some human friends stopped by to pick up a kid goat and they discovered Osborne indisposed in his pile of manure. Unable to move him, they called an ambulance."
It's not every day that a parrot is honored by the Red Cross, but that's exactly what happened in 2009 when the relief organization presented Willie the parrot with a special recognition after saving the life of a 2-year-old girl in Colorado the previous fall.
According to the Daily Mail, Willie alerted Megan Howard, the child's sitter, with a loud and shrieking "Mama! Baby," while flapping its wings as the young girl was choking on a piece of food in November of 2009.
"Megan then dashed back to find the little girl turning blue and performed the Heimlich maneuver," the article reads. "This first aid procedure involves dislodging an obstruction from a person's windpipe by applying a sudden strong pressure to the abdomen."
Months after the near tragedy, the Red Cross presented Willie with the Animal Lifesaver Award at a special ceremony that was attended by the governor of Colorado and mayor of Denver, as well as countless others from the Denver Metropolitan Area.
In 1997, Jack and Jo Ann Altsman agreed to babysit their daughter's pet potbelly pig, but as the months went by, Lulu went from a temporary resident to a permanent member of the Altsman household. The couple formed a strong bond with the pig, which paid off tremendously in the summer of 1998 when Jo Ann was faced with a life or death situation.
On August 4, 1998, while Jack was away on a fishing trip, Jo Ann was home alone with Lulu when she noticed the first signs of an oncoming heart attack. She screamed for help, and Lulu being more like a child than a pet, took it upon herself to save the day. Lulu forced herself through a doggy door, ripping her skin in the process, and ran out into the street to seek help.
When someone finally stopped to help the pig, Lulu led them to the Altsman's home where they found Jo Ann on the floor in distress. Jo Ann was transported to a nearby hospital where she underwent emergency heart surgery. She later recovered.
Lulu would go on to receive the gold hero medal from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City.
Nick Bruce was initially cold on the idea of his daughter getting a goat as a pet, but after Speedy saved the entire family from dying in a house fire two days later, Bruce was very much happy that his 10-year-old daughter received the goat as a birthday present.
During an interview with the television magazine Inside Edition (via Huffington Post), Bruce said: "I didn't approve of him at first, but he'll be here from now on."
On the night the fire completely destroyed the family home, Bruce's daughter, Abigail was sleeping in the living room with Speedy when the goat began jumping on her as she slept. Abigail quickly realized that something was wrong and ran to her parents' bedroom.
"She said it was smoky and she could hardly breathe," Nick Bruce told local KAIT TV (via Huffington Post). "She said she thought it was hailing outside but when I got up to check, it was the fire that was coming around the outside window."
The family was eventually able to escape, but both daughter and father agreed that they wouldn't be here today if Speedy hadn't entered their lives.
Unlike the rest of the animals on this list, the lions in the following story don't have names, but they helped stop a kidnapping plot in the African nation of Ethiopia.
According to BBC News, a 12-year-old girl was snatched by a group of men on her way home from school one day in June 2005. Local police told the publication that a week later, a group of lions approached the men and chased them off, leaving the girl on her own.
"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," Sergeant Wondmu Wedaj said. "Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle because normally the lions would attack people."
The kidnappers were eventually caught.
What could have been a tragic example of bad timing quickly turned into a heartwarming story in 2009 when Yang Yun, a Chinese diver, was rescued by Mila the beluga whale during a cold-water diving contest gone awry.
According to Daily Mail, Yun was taking part in the competition when the arctic temperature of the water caused her legs to cramp up, and the diver was left stranded at a depth of 20 feet. Yun would have met certain death if it weren't for the quick action of Mila, who swam down and pulled the diver up to the surface.
"We suddenly saw the girl being pushed to the top of the pool with her leg in Mila's mouth," an official at Polar Land in Harbin told Daily Mail. "She's a sensitive animal who works closely with humans and I think this girl owes Mila her life."