Our 10 Favorite Pet Heroes of 2022 Rescued Missing Kids, Thwarted Intruders, and Cleared Explosives


Our 10 Favorite Pet Heroes of 2022 Rescued Missing Kids, Thwarted Intruders, and Cleared Explosives

From K-9 saviors and feisty guard cats to one of the most touching honors for overcoming trauma, these brave animals won our hearts this year. Tracey L. Kelley headshot
Tracey L. Kelley headshot By Tracey L. Kelley December 20, 2022 Advertisement Pin FB More Tweet Email Send Text Message Print best pet heroes of 2022
best pet heroes of 2022 Credit: Devon Clare Banfield / Getty

Animal heroes don't require capes, utility belts with innovative tools, or underground lairs to make a difference in the world. They simply act on instinct to keep others safe. Well, in all fairness, some are trained to be crusaders. Still, incredible!

We're not ranking the marvelous pet heroes of 2022 on this list. We just want to point out how doggone lucky we are to share the planet with such selfless wonders. 

Intrepid Patron Sniffs Out Bombs in Ukraine 

The Ukrainian civil defense service has a secret weapon in Patron, a tenacious 2-year-old Russell terrier who scours the vast landscape using his superpower (his mighty scent abilities) to discover improvised explosive devices, land mines, and unexploded bombs—saving countless lives. He even received a medal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—although he'd apparently rather have cheese.

MORE: Patron Saint: This Tiny Terrier Has Helped Ukrainian Forces Clear Nearly 90 Explosives During the War

Artemis the Golden’s Barks Save Two Sisters

When youngsters Abigail and Cecilia Bourg followed their dog Artemis into the woods behind their Folsom, La., home, they had no idea they'd all lose their way. More than 100 volunteers searched for the missing trio for hours, using ATVs and drones. But it was their golden retriever's resonant barks that led rescue personnel to their location and ensured a safe return home. 

MORE: Loyal Golden Retriever Helps Rescuers Find Missing Kiddos as Night Fell in a Louisiana Forest

Years Sniffing Luggage Come to a Rewarding End

Detection dog TTirado worked tirelessly at the Indianapolis International Airport for eight years, using his powerful sniffer to scan luggage and terminals. Named in honor of New York firefighter Hector Luis Tirado Jr., who died in service on 9/11, the plucky Labrador retriever was called in for one last bag check before receiving a joyous retirement shower of all the tennis balls he could chase. Now that's a good boy. 

MORE: Watch as Airport Detection Dog Gets the Sendoff of Every Pup's Dream

Family Dog Fends Off Mountain Lion 

Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, but Erin Wilson and her Belgian Malinois, Eva, encountered a big cat on a Northern California trail. Eva had bounded ahead of Wilson, but she swiftly circled back when she heard the mountain lion swiping at her owner. Soon, dog and mountain lion were locked in fierce battle that took Wilson and a passing motorist to break them up. Unfortunately, Eva died weeks after the attack, gone much too soon.

MORE: Eva the Hero Malinois Saves Her Human From Mountain Lion Attack

House Cat Thwarts Intruders With Insistent Meows

While asleep in his Mississippi home, Fred Everitt heard deep meows from his adopted calico cat, Bandit. Thinking at first that his kitty was simply telling another feline to hit the road, Everitt was startled when she jumped onto his bed, tugging his comforter and clawing his arms. He followed Bandit downstairs to discover two armed figures trying to break into his home, but they eventually fled. Always pay attention when your cat uncharacteristically meows at night!

MORE: How Bandit the Very Alert Cat Saved Her Owner From Would-be Burglars

Ethan the Resilient Receives National Award

Few comeback stories are as inspirational as the one belonging to Ethan, a cane corso who was emaciated and left for dead in a Kentucky animal shelter's parking lot. He survived a harrowing and lengthy recovery, bolstered by his adopted family, the Callaways. But his tale of resilience moved millions of people, earning him the Hero Dog Award from American Humane as he shared the stage with other honorable pups. 

MORE: Inspirational Rescue Dog Ethan Takes Home the 2022 American Humane Hero Dog Award

Max the Lab Alerts Rescuers to Missing Owner

Another amazing story of a barking beacon comes from Katy, Texas, where Sherry Noppe and her Lab, Max, ventured off to hike the 7,800-acre George Bush Park. Three days later, they remained lost. With the help of a K–9 officer, who picked up their scent, the rescue team followed Max's barks to recover the pair, relatively unscathed and ready for baths. 

MORE: Labrador's Barks Helps Rescuers Locate Texas Woman Who'd Been Missing for 3 Days

K-9 Officer Knowhow Brings Little Boy Home

Mighty Maverick the Lab didn't hesitate when faced with his mission: Find a missing child with only the scent from a blanket. But as one of the highly trained K-9 officers with the Union County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina, Maverick leapt into action, tracking along a busy highway and through a series of turns that led to a point in the woods where the boy was found, eager to go home.

MORE: Maverick the K-9 Officer Finds Missing Boy Using Scent From a Blanket

Fussy Puppy? More Like Junior Firefighter

Sweet lil' Skipper, a 6-month-old pup, simply wouldn't settle down one night in his Charlotte County, Fla., home, making weird noises and continually trying to get everyone's attention until the wee hours of the next morning. His pet parent, Evonne Pugh, thought he was restless because of overnight guests, so imagine her surprise when she looked out a back window to see her entire grill area in flames. Because of Skipper's keen sense of danger, firefighters extinguished the blaze and a greater crisis was averted.

MORE: Skipper the Golden Retriever Puppy Saves Family, Home From Grill Fire: 'He Is a Hero'

Who Rescued Whom? 

When Chad Mason of Canton, Ohio, adopted stray pit bull Bunny, little did he know that the grateful pup would soon return the favor. About a year into their friendship, Mason had a stroke and collapsed onto his bathroom floor. Struggling toward the front door, he opened it, hoping Bunny would slip out and get help. And that she did! Running to the end of the driveway, Bunny barked nonstop until a neighbor stopped to help. Now Mason and Bunny continue to take care of one another.

MORE: 'She's Amazing': Former Stray Dog Saves Owner's Life When He Suffers from Stroke

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