Everyone knows that animals can be great friends to humans and even to each other—but sometimes they are so much more. Read on for stories of four amazing animals that have changed lives, or even saved them.
When she was a puppy, golden retriever Ricochet’s owner tried to train her to be a therapy dog. But Ricochet didn’t seem to be cut out for the job—until she discovered surfing. Soon after placing third in her very first surfing contest, Ricochet was paired with Patrick Ivison, a paralyzed teen who is also a talented surfer. Ricochet and Patrick put on a show in August 2009 and raised enough money for three years of Patrick’s physical therapy. Patrick, 17, now walks with a walker and drives a car. Ricochet became the world’s only known dog that surfs as an assistive aid with kids who have special needs. She has participated in more than 50 fund-raisers and has raised nearly $150,000 for various animal and human causes.
How quickly does a pet become loyal to its owner? For Pudding the cat, it didn’t take long. On February 8, just hours after adopting the fluffy orange kitty, Amy Jung suffered a diabetic attack while sleeping and almost fell into a coma. (Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body’s main fuel source.) Pudding jumped on her new owner’s chest and swatted her face and bit her nose, waking her up. The cat then ran down the hall and pounced onto Jung’s son, Ethan, to wake him up. Ethan, then 7, ran to his mother and gave her a life-saving injection. After the incident, Jung registered Pudding as a therapy cat.
She is a 47-year-old gorilla named Samantha. He is a baby rabbit named Panda. They are roommates—and best friends—at Pennsylvania’s Erie Zoo.
After her longtime gorilla companion, Rudy, died in 2005, Samantha was lonely. Zookeepers gave her a stuffed toy gorilla, but she still needed a living pal. She was too old to be paired with a male gorilla, though, and she hadn’t bonded with other gorillas on trips to different zoos. So her caretakers finally decided to introduce her to Panda—and the two hit it off right away. Panda moved into Samantha’s cage in February and has brought Samantha some much-needed cheer. Samantha pets the rabbit often and even shares her food with Panda.
After a tornado destroyed much of Joplin, Missouri, in May 2011, many volunteers stepped in to help clean up the city. They had a rather large helper—an Asian elephant named Oka. The Piccadilly Circus was in town, and after its show was canceled, the performers brought Oka to help with cleanup. Oka removed debris and towed a car from beneath a crumbled house. She also brought smiles to the faces of many tornado victims.