It’s Just the Dog in Them


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Outside magazine, October 1996

It’s Just the Dog in Them

Seven reasons why, the next time you venture outdoors, you might want to pack a pooch. Profiles in canine courage.

Pit Bull, ten years old

Spring 1993, in California’s Tijuana River Valley.

Precipitating Incident
Torrential rains and whole-scale flooding throughout the area.

Way Beyond the Call of Dog Duty
During the three months of flooding, Weela, who usually likes to give off an air of ferocity, is credited with saving 30 people, 29 dogs, 13 horses, and (begrudgingly) one cat from drowning or starvation.

Heartwarming “Timmy” Moment
Ignoring the Buchananesque political climate, Weela shepherds 30 Mexican nationals who have undertaken an ill-timed border-crossing away from rising floodwaters and toward safety in the United States.

Chocolate Lab, five years old

Mise-en-ScŠne: January 1995, in a pasture near Springfield, Missouri.

Precipitating Incident: A 2,000-pound Belgian bull chases and then traps Chester Jenkins against the ground, spiking him repeatedly with its hooves.

Beyond the Call of Dog Duty: Launching himself at the bull’s face, Bailey clamps onto the animal’s ears and hangs on tight, taking the heat while Jenkins scuttles to safety.

Heartwarming “Timmy” Moment: “He saved my dad! He’s like Lassie or something!” said 21-year-old Dustin Jenkins, thereby solidifying Bailey’s quest to be the Ken-L-Ration Dog of the Year.

Golden Retrievers, 9-year-old son and 16-year-old father

Mise-en-ScŠnes: July 1986, in Yosemite National Park, and January 1993, at California’s Kirkwood Ski Area.

Precipitating Incidents: Lester Needham, missing for three days inside Yosemite National Park, tumbles into a chasm and lies with his back and ankle broken under the freezing mist of a nearby waterfall. Similarly, Kirkwood skier Jeff Eckland lies buried beneath four feet of snow, victim of an avalanche.

Beyond the Call of Dog Duty: Professionals trained in search and rescue–but swept up in the high emotion of these real-life human dramas nevertheless–Zeke locates and digs out Needham, and Doc locates and digs out Eckland.

Heartwarming “Timmy” Moment: Canine father and son, not having laid eyes on each other in a year, are poignantly reunited for honoring photo shoot–yet stubbornly refuse to pose side-by-side.

K. C.
Dalmation, five years old

Mise-en-ScŠne: March 1993, on a not-quite-frozen pond outside Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Precipitating Incident: Misjudging his evening constitutional, Chubs, a black Lab, falls through the ice.

Beyond the Call of Dog Duty: Sensing the drama unfolding outside, K.C. howls and barks to wake his owner, Roland Cloutier. Once let outdoors, he continues to agitate until his owner follows him to the pond, spies the struggling Chubs, and helps pull the dog to safety.

Heartwarming “Timmy” Moment: K.C. receives the Animal Hero Award from the local chapter of the ASPCA, sharing the limelight with Cloutier, who receives the Human Hero Award from the same group.

Newfoundland, two years old

Mise-en-ScŠne: August 1995, on the North Fork of the Yuba River, near Downieville, California.

Precipitating Incident: Link Hill falls into the swollen river while attempting to pan for gold.

Beyond the Call of Dog Duty: Boo, stationed creekside for a stick-fetching lesson, spots the drowning Hill. Able to resist the siren song of the stick, Boo heads into the river, dives repeatedly until he locates Hill’s arm, and then pulls him to the bank.

Heartwarming “Timmy” Moment: Boo narrowly misses distinction as Ken-L-Ration’s Dog of the Year, losing a 12-month supply of free kibble to Bailey.

German Shepard, two years old

Mise-en-ScŠne: June 1994, in the woods abutting Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Precipitating Incident: Eight-year-old Ashley Gillen is set upon by a 30-pound rabid raccoon, which bites and scratches the girl.

Beyond the Call of Dog Duty: Hearing the child’s cries, Kelsey races into the woods and grapples with the raccoon, suffering numerous bites before eventually penning it under a car until authorities come to dispatch the animal with five bullets.

Heartwarming “Timmy” Moment: The entire Gillen family undergoes a painful series of rabies shots; Kelsey, current with her inoculations, relaxes at her family’s ranch-style home.