CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was the headline about a pig saving a baby goat from drowning that prompted me to click on the first story. From there I was lured to stories about a seizure-detecting cat, a pair of dogs that kept an autistic boy warm while he was lost in the woods overnight, and a German shepherd that traveled, in spite of its advanced age and arthritic condition, many miles to get help for its owner.
I'm a sucker for tales of animal heroics, especially stories featuring dogs. I'm simply reduced to mush by tales of dog bravery. And one might think that, considering the many dogs as my family has had over the years, the law of averages would have us awash with our own stories of animal heroism.
We have only one.
Granted there weren't any flames or blood or frigid temperatures in our tale, and it might've simply been a bit of fortunate timing on the dog's part, but it still makes me proud.
Fifteen years ago, my parents had several dogs. Among them was a chow mix named Mac.
Mac was a handsome dog. He looked good in hats. Knew it. Worked it. Mac had style. Fortunately, Mac also had girth. As he aged, he seemed to become less of a dog and more of a puddle -- his ample spread was somehow waterlike, and when Mac would flop to the floor, it was more like he'd spill.
At the time, my daughter Celeste was just a toddler. She could take a few steps, but generally preferred still to crawl. Mom and I were moving furniture in preparation for company, and we'd put Celeste with some toys on a blanket near us while we worked. Mac had lumbered upstairs with us and was standing near the door as Mom and I hoisted a mattress and began to flip it. Celeste chose that moment -- when we were completely occupied and helpless -- to stand and run full speed directly toward the top of the stairs. There was no way we could've reached her in time.
Fortunately, Mac was there to employ his Puddle Powers and save the day. He flopped that big, watery belly down across the top of the stairway, and Celeste plowed happily into his furry roadblock instead of tumbling down the stairs.
I have no doubt that Mac saved her that day, whether it be from a broken neck or just a wicked rug burn. He was my hero. Funny thing was, he knew what he'd done. Was proud of himself -- and angry with me for what he seemed to believe was neglectful parenting. For the next hour or two, every time I tried to get near Celeste, he put himself in between us. She was his. He'd saved her. Her life now belonged to him. He eventually forgave me, but from then until his death from old age, Celeste was his in a way none of the other grandkids ever were.
Aside from Mac, though, none of our family's dogs have been heroic. The ones I have now aren't even all that courteous. A few years back, each one had an opportunity to come to my rescue, and each one took a pass.