Meet Two Extraordinary Rescue Pets Who Saved Their Families’ Lives

Tara the Hero Cat and Amazing Abby have repaid their adoptive families with bravery and loyalty, literally saving lives.

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Sometimes a rescue pet goes further and returns the favor, literally saving the life of their family. And it’s not just dogs who do the rescuing; cats can do it, too. Here we look at a brave dog and cat who protected the humans they love.

Tara the Hero Cat
Triantafilo Family. Bakersfield, California

More than a million people watched the viral YouTube video showing a shocking scene: a cat ambushing a dog who was attacking a young boy in a driveway. The dog fled from the adrenaline-fueled feline, who still enjoys her fame two years later. The grateful family — Roger and Erica Triantafilo, son Jeremy, and younger twin boys — love their famous cat all the more.

Tara was lying in the garage when Jeremy, then 4, brought out his bike to play on the driveway. Neighbors opened their gate, and their dog escaped and attacked Jeremy, pulling the boy off his bike and biting his leg. Incredulously, Tara shot out of the garage and pounced on the large, aggressive dog, then chased him down the street.

“Once you take animals into your home and make them part of your family, they feel that,” Roger said.

Since the 2014 incident, Tara has received many accolades. She was the first cat to win the Los Angeles SPCA’s Annual Hero Dog Award. She even threw the first pitch for the Bakersfield Blaze and dropped the puck at a Bakersfield Condors hockey game — with human help, of course.

The Triantafilos recently learned that Jeremy has mild autism, and he is semi-nonverbal. But Tara seems to be able to communicate with him, cuddling next to him while he plays on his iPad. Their special bond goes way back. When Jeremy was a baby, Tara would sleep with him in his crib.

“It’s a great illustration of how much she cares about him,” Roger said.

The Triantafilo family seemed to be Tara’s destiny. The stray kitten, about 7 months old, found Roger and some other family members at a park while they were playing soccer, then followed them to his in-laws’ house. She stayed there a while, slowly inching closer until she finally let them pet her.

Follow Tara on her Facebook page or check out

Amazing Abby
The Siekert Family, Hartland, Wisconsin

Abby. (Photo courtesy The Siekert Family)

Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, but the gas can be deadly. It took Abby, a Border Collie-Australian Shepherd mix, to diagnose the mortal danger filling up the home of Nicole and Brian Siekert and their 5-year-old twin girls, Grace and Bella.

Abby had been clingy on that fateful morning in February. Everyone in the house was feeling unwell and had upset stomachs, but didn’t know why. Since the twins didn’t have a fever, they went ahead to school. Nicole returned from the bus stop, and Abby was still acting strangely. The dog wouldn’t let her lie down, and kept nudging Nicole with her head.

Nicole forced herself to get up to let Abby outside. But the dog passed the front door and went downstairs to the basement to sit by the chirping carbon monoxide alarm, which had detected a leak from a blocked exhaust pipe. (Nicole was so out of it she could not hear the detector.) Nicole and the girls rushed to the hospital to be treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

“If Abby wasn’t there, the reality is I just would have fallen asleep and I would not have woken up,” Nicole said. “Thank God I sent (Grace and Bella) to school.”

Abby thankfully showed no signs of illness. The beloved hero dog, nicknamed “Abbs,” has since been featured in local and national media, Nicole said. Dog biscuit company Milk-Bone even selected Abby as a “Dog Who Changed the World” and gave her a year’s supply of Milk-Bones.

The Siekerts adopted Abby eight years ago from Finally Home Holistic Recovery and Adoption in Elgin, Illinois. Abby was the first pooch who came up on the website under Australian Shepherd. The then-8-month-old’s soulful golden eyes grabbed Nicole, along with the shelter’s report that the dog was super smart.

“One of the things I keep saying is she’s a rescue dog, and she literally rescued my family,” Nicole said.

Top photo: Tara. (Photo courtesy Triantafilo Family)

Kellie B. Gormly

Kellie Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist otherwise known as “Mother Catresa” to homeless kittens and cats. Read about her adventures in fostering on her blog.


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