Do dogs know they are being rescued?
I know they know, or I wouldn’t do what I do to save them.
I am guarded by a 128-pound male Gotti/Ridgeline pit. I saved him from death. He is so loyal to me that I could tell him we were going to drink the Kool-Aid today, and he would drink his first so I wouldn’t be afraid to chug.
The day I discovered this guy had been abandoned, I knew he was probably still going to die, but I opened my car door and looked into his sad blue eyes and said, “Bighead, if you want to be my boy, I’m here. Get over here and load up, but any funny business or reckless eyeballing me will get you fish-hooked and sat down right back where we started. You wanna load up, Mr. ForeheadlikeTyra?”
He was in the passenger seat like he teleported. He knew what transpired at that very moment, and he still sees that fearless halfwit every time he looks at me.
I got a call one night from a vet tech I work with. A load of pit pups were in a ditch off 301. We’re in rainy season, the water is three feet high in the ditch, and a gator had been filmed chilling there a few days earlier. These pups don’t have sight yet, and I’m told two have already drowned.
Immediately I grab my keys, my bag and some towels, and I head to the door. Bighead meets me there, and I have to get my emotions in check because he’s scared. He has to be thinking that I’m running out on him, too. “Nope, load up. Let’s go grab these babies before some reptile gets warm enough to get hungry,” I told him.
He and I spend hours in a thunderstorm next to a six-lane stretch of industrial traffic. He never bats an eye. He can hear these babies crying, and he leads me to five live puppies. Then he looked at me like he regrets to inform me life is about to kick me in the chest as I spot two babies that obviously don’t hurt anymore. They’re face down in the water that has puddled around a drain grate.
“I can’t just leave them, Waterhead. It ain’t right,” I tell him. He moved slightly to the left so I could wrap them in a towel, and he whined quietly as I opened the trunk and laid them down to ride in their funeral procession.
Now I have a big box of blind babies on the backseat, but ForeheadlikeTyra decided he wanted to backseat drive, too. Hmm, stepdad much?
Unamused, he starts sniffing the babies loudly. Exhaling like a walrus with sinusitis. Breathing weird hot air all over these stepchildren. Oh, I see. You’re not just beauty; you’re rocking a big brain as well. You do your freakshow, Lamaze, and I’ll drive.
He is a rescue dog who rescues dogs, and ensures we all make it back home safely.
That’s a gentleman.
— April Hawkins
April Hawkins resides in Tampa, Florida, with “about 674 rescue dogs who believe they live in my house.” She writes a popular daily advice column on Quora and blogs about her dogs.