Everyone sees their pup as a hero dog, but for Colleen, Ben will forever be the family hero. Ben is the beloved dog of the Rauschenbergs, and he sets the bar for dogs helping people when they absolutely need it.
"I will forever be grateful for saving Ben, who in turn, saved my life by saving my kids and my friends' daughter," Colleen said.
Colleen Rauschenberg didn't always have Ben. She was looking for a family dog when her friend Helyn called to tell her about the perfect one, who was in the town newspaper. But when Colleen looked at the picture of her future hero dog, all she saw was an unappealing mutt.
A Proven Resident
"Ben is a Bernese Mountain dog and Border Collie mix," Colleen said. "And that picture was just the ugliest picture you could take of him. When I saw him in person, he looked nothing like his photo!"
The very first night in his new home, Ben lived up to his nicknames of "Big Ben" and "Gentle Ben." Colleen woke the next morning to find her kids had dressed the huge dog in a Steeler's jersey. He took his new pack's strange ways with his usual grace, wearing the uniform proudly and to his family's delight.
Ben became a much-loved member of the Rauschenberg family. Gentle, loyal, and fun -- he fit right in. Unfortunately, Colleen and her children moved out of their house to an apartment that did not allow pets. Ben was allowed to visit, but not stay. During one of those visits, however, Ben charmed the landlord with such exemplary behavior and adorable canine manners that the landlord was finally convinced to allow Ben to live in the apartment.
It just so happens that permission may have saved four children's lives.
A Night Out Saved
As a busy single mother, Colleen rarely took time out for herself. When it was her turn to have the kids she wanted to spend every minute with them. But one evening when she had visitation with her children at the apartment, her friend Helyn's daughter Alexx called and asked if she could babysit. Alexx wanted to earn some extra money, and was trying to babysit in order to raise the funds she needed to redecorate her room. After thinking it over, Colleen agreed.
That evening, Colleen tossed a pair of pants into the clothes dryer before leaving Alexx in charge of her two kids. Colleen went out with her friend, and all was fine. Calling home several times to speak with Alexx and the children, she was assured that all was well, and decided to stay out a little later. During her last call home, Alexx told her the kids were all asleep and, because it was already pretty late into the night, she would doze off too.
The next call she received, Colleen said, still makes her tremble to this day.
"Mom! Mom!" she remembers her daughter yelling into the phone. "We need you! Our house is on fire!"
Colleen can't even remember the drive back: "All I remember is the sound of tires squealing as I raced home."
The entire place was on fire, possibly started by dryer lint from when Colleen ran the dryer hours before. As the children slept, "Big Ben," ever vigilant, must have smelled the smoke. He went to Alexx first, pouncing on the bed until she woke up. Not only did the dog's insistence alert her that something was wrong, but her mom had told her that if a dog ever wakes you up, it's important, and you should listen. Alexx got out of bed and went to the front door to let Ben out; she thought he had to go to the bathroom. But when she got to the living room she saw the fire, and was able to get Ben and the kids out before calling for help.
"If Ben hadn't woken her up, none of them would be here," Colleen said.
The large living room and laundry room sustained the worst damage. Venetian blinds at the front of the living room actually melted from the heat of the fire. Smoke, soot, and flames seemed to touch every inch of the apartment.
"Being a single mom I don't have a lot of money," Colleen admitted, "but someday, I am going to save enough to have Ben's face tattooed on [me] . . . I know if it wasn't for him, I may not have them anymore."
The hero dog doesn't seem to think he did anything special. To Ben, it's life as usual. A bowl of kibble in the morning. Walks a few times a day, romps in the yard, and games of dress-up in his Steeler's jersey. But to Colleen, he's so much more. He's a shining example of the connection you develop to dogs helping people just because it's right.
Hero Dogs and Fires
A dog's sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more accurate than that of people, according to PBS. Dogs can sniff out anything from accelerants used by arsonists to start fires, to cancer cells in people. It's entirely possible that Ben's acute sense of smell helped him identify the danger.
But why did he wake Alexx, the babysitter and relative stranger, instead of the children? Because Alexx knew what to do in the emergency. Dogs instinctively sense the pack leader, and Ben surely recognized that during this particular evening. With Colleen away from home, Alexx naturally took over.
Other dogs just like Ben have saved families from house fires, earthquakes, and other natural and man-made disasters. The Huffington Post reported that a blind, deaf, three-legged Dachshund named True saved his family from a house fire in Oklahoma in much the same way Ben saved the Rauchenberg family. Nothing, it seems, will stop true hero dogs from being heroes in a person's time of need. Dogs helping people are astonishing, but these stories can be found almost every day.
Pets have the power to transform lives, which is why heroes like Gentle Ben deserve the best nutrition. And quality dog food keeps your dog healthy and happy regardless of the situation. From Hill's® Science Diet® to Ideal Balance®, a hero dog needs a good meal just like his family needs him.
Jeanne Grunert is a freelance writer, blogger, and book author. She's the guardian of six adopted cats and one adopted dog, and writes extensively about pet care, gardening and other lifestyle topics. Learn more about Jeanne and her writing on her author website.