Real-Life Hero Dogs

Some adopted pets aren't just beloved companions–they are lifesavers too.

Penny Centrella ignored frantic pawing from Zeus, her pointer-Lab mix, on a hot July day two years ago. She didn't seem to notice as one-year-old Zeus nudged her with his snout; she barely reacted as the 60-pound dog nipped at her clothes. Only when he began barking did Centrella realize she'd collapsed on the floor of her Lynn, Mass., home after a heart attack.

Centrella was able to call 911 only because Zeus revived her. "The emergency-room doctor told me that if not for my dog, I would have been dead," says Centrella, 46.

Centrella, a dog groomer who adopted Zeus from the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass., when he was seven weeks old, says he's back to his old routine. Her hero watches TV with her and sleeps with his favorite toy, a stuffed fish with multicolored fins. "He was already spoiled, so I'm not treating him any differently," she says. "My theory with dogs is that you get what you give. Love and take care of them, and they'll do the same for you in return."

In Flushing, N.Y. a two-year-old pit bull mix name Blue also raised a ruckus to save a loved one. But in this case, the dog's barks were aimed at a child predator menacing a little girl in the New York City neighborhood.

Blue's barking alerted his owner to cries from a nearby house. When Blue's owner ran to investigate, the would-be attacker fled, the girl was saved, and Blue was hailed as a hero. The perpetrator was later arrested.

"I think Blue may have been thinking of my daughters when he started barking that night," says his owner, Heather Fretes, an inventory control specialist. "He's very protective of 14-year-old Marissa and 11-year-old Krista," she adds.

When the girl's parents heard how Blue's barking helped thwart the attack, they appeared at Fretes' door with a beautifully wrapped basket of doggy treats. "Blue got so many treats that night. I think he knew he did something heroic," Fretes laughs. "It was the first and only time he ever peed in the house – I think he just knew he could get away with it."

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