Helping others in danger is more than a mere spontaneous response - Word&Way

Helping others in danger is more than a mere spontaneous response

My guess is that Internet stories with themes like devotion, compassion and sacrifice receive a lot of hits. Sure, cuteness, trivia and no-emotional-investment shallow topics garner their share of attention, too. But principled actions and reactions strike particular chords within most of us.

The headline “Service dog hit by bus trying to save blind owner in New York” quickly attracted my attention. The story was brief but compelling, and it had a relatively happy ending. Both the dog, a golden retriever named Figo, and the blind owner, Audrey Stone, suffered injuries when struck by a mini school bus but the injuries apparently are not life-threatening.

Figo is being hailed as a hero for leaping between his legally blind owner and the oncoming bus in an effort to protect her, according to news reports. The dog was walking on her right side but reacted to the threat of danger to Stone by switching sides, according to witnesses at the scene in Brewster, N.Y.

Dog and owner were both struck by the bus. Tires on the bus took some fur off Figo, who is 8 years old, and the dog sustained injuries to his legs. Stone, who is 62, broke an ankle, ribs and an elbow and suffered a head wound.

Figo was taken to a veterinary clinic for treatment and recovery; Stone was treated at a Danbury, Conn., hospital.

The Brewster Fire Department came to the aid of the two victims, and witnessed observed that Figo did not want to leave his owner’s side even though he was maneuvering on three legs as a result of his injury.

It’s impossible to know what went through Figo’s mind as he sprung into action. “I can’t explain it, whether he did that consciously or unconsciously, but it’s pretty amazing,” veterinarian LouAnn Pfeifer told CNN affiliate WCBS.

We’re moved when an animal — albeit a well trained service dog in this case — demonstrates such dedication to duty and care for a disabled person. But we become even more amazed when such stories play out every day about the efforts of one human to come to the aid of another person in harm’s way.

Sometimes the hero places herself (or himself) in danger to protect or save another person. In fact, it happens more frequently than we might guess.

Such stories are even more astounding when the involve strangers with no previous emotional connections. A fellow human faces danger and a hero responds almost instinctively to render live-saving aid.

I’m convinced such unselfish — and often personally dangerous — acts do not simply happen because a circumstance presents itself and a would-be hero/heroine automatically reacts/responds. Figo’s training made his response understandable. He did what service dogs are trained to do. Firemen, medical professionals, policemen and others do the same regularly

Sometimes it is not a trained professional who responds but someone who seems like an ordinary layperson who simply surprises us — and maybe himself — by doing what needs to be done.

I believe it is the “character” principle or the “caring” principle that often has prepared such a person “for such a time as this.”

Such people likely have long understood that we in the human family have a responsibility and sometimes an opportunity to look out for each other. And they respond in ways that might or might not be dangerous. Thank God they are primed to act.

Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.