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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8 Surprising Uses for Peeps
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You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family
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In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.

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