Sunday, September 13, 2015

Paramedic Parrots? Daisy to the Rescue by Jeff Campbell

Diphtheria was spreading rapidly in Nome in 1925 and children were dying. But the only way to deliver the life-saving antitoxin was by dog sled, a treacherous trip of up to twenty-five days from Fairbanks.

Driver Seppala and his lead dog Togo were selected for the team of drivers to make the difficult emergency run, part of which crossed a frozen inlet of the Arctic Ocean. But crossing that treacherous strip of shifting ice in driving winds and snow was necessary to get the vital serum to Nome in time to save some of its children. And when Togo led his team across Norton Inlet, the worst thing possible happened. Beneath Togo's feet the ice cracked and split apart.

They were on a floe drifting out to sea.

Eventually, Seppala and Togo found a five-foot gap. It was too far to jump the sled, so Seppala tied a long Lead to Togo and heaved the dog across water. The dog dug in and strained on the lead, trying to pull the floe to him.

Then the lead broke and slipped into the water. Togo and Seppala faced each other, distraught. "Seppala was speechless. He had just been given a death sentence."
Togo could have chosen to save himself, but on his own he made the kind of decision a lead dog makes.
He dived into the freeing water to snatch the lead in his teeth and climb back onto the far ice. He then rolled over the line till it was wrapped several times around his shoulders, and he pulled and kept pulling until the floe was near enough for Seppala and the team to leap across.

The life-saving serum was delivered in a record six days by the dogsled teams, and Togo became a historic canine hero, the inspiration for the annual Iditarod sled race.  But Togo is but one in the long history of animal heroes--fifty domestic pets, service and rescue animals, or legendary ones, covered in Jeff Campbell's Daisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots, and Other Animal Heroes (Zest, 2014).  There are dogs who alert their owners to danger from heart and blood sugar problems, but also Dory the rabbit and Pudding the Maine coon cat who also sense high or low blood sugar and save their owners. There are horses and dolphins who help autistic children learn to interact and speak, dolphins who fight off a shark attack or tow a swimmer to safety, and an elephant who alerts a village and leads them uphill to save them from a tsunami. There is Lulu the pot-bellied pig who stops traffic to save a fallen human, and Willie the parrot who suddenly comes up with new words--"Mama, Baby!" to summon help for a choking child.

With generous documentation of these animal heroes, this is a book with wide appeal to readers of almost any age, from elementary kids to adults.  "Campbell draws on opinions from professionals and anecdotal evidence, gleaned from ancient to modern times, to understand animal motivations. ...The text flows well, and the compact content is intense... . The documentation shines in this presentation." says School Library Journal.

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