K-9 heroes and the human animal bond

The IFAW team helped a woman to obtain supplies and food for herself and her dog – in order to maintain the bond with her animal companion, something we strive for even in the most challenging of circumstances.When I was in Sydney, Australia for work, I took an evening to visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales, though I spent most of my time staring at a painting by Briton Rivière from 1888 called “Requiescat” of a knight in full armor lying on his death bed with his trusted hound sitting watch by his side, his head gently nuzzling his pale white hand. 

A signed reproduction of the original sold recently for about £111,000 (about $170,000), so I had to settle for a postcard from the gift shop, which now hangs above my desk. 

This week, two real-life events reminiscent of that painting highlighted the special bonds that people have with their dogs, especially when they rely on each other, literally, to save each other’s’ lives. 

In Lexington, KY, Figo, the canine partner of fallen police officer Jason Ellis, kept vigil while Ellis was laid to rest, placing his paw on the casket when it was set down by Ellis’ police colleagues.  The photo captured by a photographer with the Lexington Times-Herald immediately went viral and became popular on Huffington Post, Reddit.com and other social media sites.

And yesterday, in Plymouth, MA, members of the police force lined the walkways of a local vet clinic and gave full salute to Kaiser, a German shepherd that had been with the police for almost two years, as he was taken to the clinic to be euthanized because of a rapid decline in health due to kidney disease.

Dogs like these provide an invaluable service to their human companions not just for police in the U.S., but all over the world.  In Kenya, sniffer dogs are used at the airports to detect ivory smugglers and in the field to help find poachers, for example.  And in Namibia, Anatolian shepherds, are used to guard flocks of sheep and herds of goats from cheetahs and leopards. 

While these dogs are trained to perform specific tasks, it’s their bond with their human counterparts that makes their lifesaving work possible. Each is wholly reliant on the other.

And, it’s why the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) works around the world to improve the lives of companion animals and rescue them from disasters and cruelty. 

Right now, an IFAW team is on the ground in Oklahoma assisting with the recovery efforts following the devastating tornado that ripped through the area of Moore, OK last week. 


You can follow our team in Oklahoma and their life saving work here, and make a donation to help this kind of work continue.

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters