The bond between animals and humans is undeniably a special one. And from dramatic rescues to simple gestures of solidarity, here are 20 heart-warming examples of people taking the time – and even risking their lives – to help animals when they needed it most.
20. Yang Xiaoyun spends her life savings to free dogs
Yang Xiaoyun has been rescuing animals for over two decades, and in the last few years the selfless woman has turned her attention to rescuing dogs from China’s infamous Yulin dog meat festival. In 2015, for instance, Xiaoyun spent thousands of her own savings to prevent 500 dogs and 100 cats from ending up on the butcher’s slab.
19. Men drag lamb from a raging sea
This dramatic image shows the moment when two Norwegian men pulled a tiny lamb from tumultuous waves. The daring rescue required a team effort, as the two men risked slipping from the moss-covered rocks into the swelling waters.
18. Firefighters cut a squirrel out of a manhole cover
IN 2012 firefighters refused to give up on this little squirrel when it got its head stuck in a manhole cover and used power tools to set it free. This was despite being advised by professionals that euthanizing the critter would have been the easiest option.
17. Pig receives custom-made wheelchair
This piglet was born with a congenital defect that made his rear legs useless. Instead of lights out, however, the porker – named Chris P. Bacon – was given a second chance after his veterinarian owner Len Lucero used a toy K’nex set to fashion a pig-perfect wheelchair. Mr. Bacon became an internet sensation in 2013 when a video of him in the tiny wheelchair went viral.
16. Excavators lift deer to safety
When a group of workmen were investigating an alarm on the construction site they were working on in 2016, they expected to catch a criminal in the act. However, they got something of a surprise when they discovered a tiny deer stuck in the site’s thick mud. Thinking quickly, the team used an excavator to rescue the terrified deer out of the mud and released it back into the forest.
15. Marine raises orphaned baby rabbits
They may have a macho reputation, but one U.S. Marine showed off his softer side after he found four starving bunnies near his barrack’s volleyball court in 2013. He hand-raised the adorable bunnies until they were big and strong enough to be returned to nature.
14. Man rescues a cat from canal
This guy attempted Spider-Man-like moves to save a tiny, stranded kitten. Good thing he had a safety buddy; the sticky kitty doesn’t look like it knows when to let go of a bad situation.
13. Friends drag drowning deer to safety
Rob Kurdy and friends were fishing six miles off of the Long Island coast in the summer of 2016 when they came across a huge deer struggling to find its way home. The six-point buck was understandably exhausted, so Kurdy threw a rope around the animal’s antlers and towed the deer safely to shore.
12. Police officers give one last salute to their canine colleague
After two brave years of service, a Massachusetts police dog sadly needed to be euthanized in 2013. Touchingly, more than a dozen officers formed a guard of honor for Kaiser the German Shepherd as he walked his last mile.
11. News team rescues drowning dog
When the Bravos River in Rosenberg, Texas, broke its banks spring 2016, many pets were caught in the flood. This dog, for instance, was on the verge of drowning when KPRC reporter Phil Archer and volunteer Jeff Shimek managed to rescue it just in the nick of time.
10. Beachgoers help stranded manatee back to water
In 2014 vacationers in Florida banded together to protect a manatee that had washed ashore. The group shaded the sea cow, kept it cool with water and eventually helped wildlife officials carry it back out into the ocean.
9. Divers untangle sea turtle
In 2014 a group of divers gave a sea turtle off of the coast of Mexico another shot at life when they untangled it from a nylon line. And, after becoming free, the turtle swam right up to the face of his rescuer, as if to say thank you.
8. Protesters soothe tear gassed dog
Turkish police accidentally tear gassed this dog during a protest in 2013. Thankfully, the pooch had a quick team of helpers nearby to bath its eyes with water.
7. Fisherman saves dog stuck on an ice floe
A Russian fisherman fearlessly put his life on the line to save this dog, which had gotten stuck on a block of ice not more than 20 feet from the port in Magadan, Siberia. The hero jumped into the Okhotsk Sea and pulled the ice floe toward one of the ships tied to the port. Crew members were able to pull the dog on board, and the pooch quickly scampered off to solid ground with a couple of Siberian Husky friends.
6. Elephant receives prosthetic limb
In 2009, at the age of 50, an elephant named Motala received a new lease on life with a prosthetic leg. The animal had sadly lost the limb when it stepped on a landmine, which had been left over from the Burmese-Thai war in 1999.
5. Firefighter resuscitates cat
In 2004 after rescuing a cat from a house fire in Bowling Green, Kentucky, firefighter Captain Levy Davis treated the victim with as much dignity as he would any human. In fact, the image is made even more poignant by the presence of one of the cat’s tiny kittens. Thankfully, the oxygen did the trick, and the cat survived.
4. Man jumps into river to save his rabbit
In 2009 poor John Byrne was sitting on a bridge begging for change with his beloved pet when an evil youth snatched the rabbit and threw it in the water. Byrne, though, selflessly jumped into Dublin’s River Liffey and was able to save Barney – but it took firefighters to rescue them both. Byrne later received a Compassionate Citizen Award for his efforts.
3. Man helps ease his dog’s arthritis
One Wisconsin man went the extra mile to ensure that his four-legged friend could enjoy a painless old age. Indeed, John Unger took his dog Schoep swimming in Lake Superior every night to ease the 19-year-old dog’s arthritis. His face says it all.
2. Little girls sells her toys for animals
One charitable little girl from Canada sold all of her soft toys so that she could donate the proceeds to a local animal shelter. “I sold my stuffed animals, so real animals can get better care. I got $40 bucks for you,” she wrote in a note accompanying her donation.
1. Man rescues black bear from water
This gigantic black bear drowsily wandered into Alligator Harbor after being shot with a tranquilizer dart when it wandered into a Florida neighborhood. Rather than let the beautiful beast drown, though, biologist Adam Warwick jumped into the harbor and somehow managed to drag the 400-pound animal to safety.