14 Pets Who Saved Human Lives

12/06/2011 08:35 am ET | Updated Jul 27, 2012

In early November, 3-and-a-half-year-old Duncan saved his best friend's life.

Duncan, a boxer, pawed and barked at his owner, Scott Dunn, until the man awoke to find the house full of smoke, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dunn was able to escape to his truck, but heroic Duncan died in the fire.

We often hear stories of life-saving pets like Duncan, but what compels these faithful animals to perform such heroic acts -- love for their owners or their own survival instincts?

The answer varies depending on factors like breed, training and socialization, according to Amy Shojai, author of 23 pet-care books and a certified animal behavior consultant. But she does think love has something to do with it.

"It's doubtful that pets consciously think about their own safety in such situations any more than a human mom thinks twice about throwing herself in the path of danger to save her child," says Shojai. However, she adds, other times self-preservation may motivate the heroic act, such as when the pet feels threatened and needs the help of its owner to get to safety.

No matter what the true motivation, a pet who saves a human is still heroic in our book. And the amazing thing is, these courageous acts happen more often than you might think. Check out these real life Lassies -- dogs, cats, rabbits and more that have saved their owners' lives in recent years.

When Pets Save Their Owner's Lives(CLONED)
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