This Dog Felt It Was His Duty to Help All Who Needed It, No Matter Where He Went

Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear collars.

Editor’s Note: America’s Best Pet Pals is a nationwide search for the animal friendships that make you laugh, cry, and purr. Reader’s Digest will be honoring the best in pet friendship in print, online, and on social media. This is a finalist in our “Lifesavers” category. Scroll to the bottom to cast your vote for Bear Junior. To see our full list of finalists, go to rd.com/petpals and vote in each category.

Many years ago, we came across a formerly abused dog at an animal shelter while looking for a companion for our dog, Bear. This shelter pup seemed meant to be, so we adopted him. Some folks at my wife’s bakery thought the perfect name for the new dog was Bear Junior, and so it was.

Bear Junior would wake me up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to go for a walk. It didn’t matter if it was summer or winter, rain or shine: He’d poke my face with his nose, and we’d go for our 30-minute walk. I once had to rest for two days after a minor surgery. My wife got up to take him for his morning walk. He held a sit-down strike next to me and refused to budge. It worked.

On two separate occasions, I took Bear Junior to the dog park. Any trouble there usually starts at the gates. In both instances, we had just started our walk and were about 25 yards down a trail. Suddenly, a small dog was yelping for help. You could see a big dog cornering him and growling. Bear Junior took off, positioning himself between the two, facing the bully. He refused to let anything happen until the owners were able to take control.

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One winter, I was playing with Bear Junior in the snow. Across the street, an elderly lady slipped on a patch of ice, screaming all the way down as she fell on her driveway. Bear Junior left me, ran across the street, and sat right against her side. She used his collar to pull herself up into a sitting position. Her husband and I got her up and into the car to get to the ER. It turned out she’d fractured her hip. Weeks later, she came to our door with a basket of dog goodies to thank Bear Junior.

His last act of valor came not long ago. Our neighbor has a small boy who sometimes comes over to visit. I had all three of our rescues outside getting ready for a walk. Bear Junior was still off leash. Another neighbor has a very hyperactive dog, who literally jumped out of an open-air Jeep and ran into our yard, barking like crazy. Bear Junior leapt into action, placing himself between the dog and the boy. The dog stopped as Bear Junior was loudly barking back until the owner was able to rush over and grab him.

Recently, Bear Junior began to favor a rear leg. The veterinarian said it might be a strain, but an X-ray revealed it was already broken, triggered by cancer that had spread unknowingly. He had to be in pain, but never showed it. The veterinarian put him to sleep and I closed my eyes for him. I remain totally saddened and think of him often. But I’ll always have Bear Junior, and all my four-legged kids, for that matter, with me.

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