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7 Heroic Dogs

Although a pack mentality is natural for a dog, their bravery, loyalty, and selflessness can boggle the mind and warm the heart. Here are a few stories that illustrate what dogs are all about.

Sinbad, the Coast Guard Dog

Sinbad was a mixed breed puppy who was adopted by the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Campbell in 1938. He eventually enlisted, meaning he had the proper paperwork to qualify as a Coast Guard sailor, and even had his own uniform. He served for eleven years on the same ship. After a battle with the Nazi submarine U-606, the Campbell was badly damaged and most of the crew debarked. Of course, a good dog never debarks, so Sinbad stayed on with the most essential crew members as the ship was towed to port. Sinbad lived to enjoy retirement and quite a bit of publicity about his service.

Zoey, the Snake Handler

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Size is no barrier to a dog determined to protect her family. Zoey the chihuahua weighs only five pounds, but she rose to the occasion when needed last summer. One-year-old Booker West was playing in his grandparent's backyard in Colorado when a rattlesnake struck at him! Zoey sprang into action, putting herself between the snake and the toddler. She sustained bites and was rushed to a veterinary hospital. Her head swelled and she almost lost an eye, but with anti-venom treatment, Zoey made a full recovery.

Hachiko, the World's Most Loyal Dog

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Hachiko, an Akita who lived in Tokyo, was extremely loyal to his master, professor Hidesamuro Ueno. He waited every day for Ueno to return from work, meeting him at the train station at four o'clock. In 1925, Ueno suffered a stroke at work and died. Still, Hachiko went to the station every day at four and searched through the crowd for his master. Every day. For ten years. Which was the rest of his life. Upon his death in 1935, Hachiko was a national celebrity. His remains were stuffed and put on display at the National Science Museum in Tokyo. A statue of Hachiko stands at Shibuya Station as a tribute to the dog's unwavering loyalty.

Velvet Warmth on a Cold Night

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In February of 2007, eight mountain climbers were caught by a snowstorm on Mt. Hood in Oregon. Climbing down, three of the group fell off a ledge along with Velvet, a black labrador. They were separated from the other five climbers, but continued climbing down. The group was forced to spend the night on the mountain before rescue could arrive. Velvet spent the night lying on each person in turn, helping to keep them warm in the storm.

"The dog probably saved their lives" by lying across them during the cold night, said Erik Brom, a member of the Portland Mountain Rescue team. He described the wind in the canyon as "hellacious."

Chips, the War Hero

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A German shepherd named Chips was donated to the war effort by his owners shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He became a tank guard dog and eventually the most decorated dog of World War II. Several times he alerted his handler to an impending attack. Once he attacked a pillbox of Italian soldiers who were firing on his unit until they came out and were captured. Chips was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, but the awards were rescinded later when the Commander of the Order of the Purple Heart complained that the awards were demeaning to human soldiers. This marked the end of the practice of awarding medals to military dogs.

Tripod, the Disabled Dog Hero

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Tripod the rat terrier with a dysfunctional leg was on her way to living in a shelter last year when she was taken in by John and Mary Smith. The Smiths are both disabled and felt a connection with Tripod. In March, Tripod was sleeping in their bedroom when a fire broke out.
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With their blankets already on fire, Tripod urged the couple to hurry. But Mary was overwhelmed with the task of getting herself mobile, plus her husband into his wheelchair. She was ready to give up hope up "“ accepting their fate; however, Tripod had other plans.

"Tripod kept pulling on my gown getting me out and I said, "˜honey, please go on, go on,' and she wouldn't do it," said the elderly woman. "She stayed right with me the entire time."

The Smiths escaped the fire without injury, and Tripod was treated to pedicure and massage from a local dog groomer as a reward for her heroism.

Penny, the Retriever who Retrieved

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Brenda Owen was walking her labrador retriever Penny by the Elwy River in St. Asaph, Wales about a month ago when she spotted a wheelchair on the shore and a body in the water. She shouted, "Fetch!" and Penny did. She jumped into the water and dragged the woman back to the riverbank, where a man helped her. The victim was injured and unconscious, and was taken to a hospital. She had been reported missing from a nearby home.
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This is by no means an all-inclusive list, as dogs makes headlines for heroism at an astounding rate. I excluded the most famous dogs to bring you stories that aren't as well known. If you liked this story, you might also enjoy Five Famous Felines, 6 Assorted Animal Adventures, or Animals that Only Bite Tourists.

See also: 6 Utterly Loyal Dogs and 6 Awesome Dogs with 6 Awesome Stories

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Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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holidays
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.

1. KRAMPUS

As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.

2. JÓLAKÖTTURINN

Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.

3. FRAU PERCHTA


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.

4. BELSNICKEL

A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.

5. HANS TRAPP

Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.

6. PÈRE FOUETTARD

The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.

7. THE YULE LADS

The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 

8. GRÝLA

All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters

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History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

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