By Ed Brock
Ranger the dog knows a few good tricks.
Rollover, shake, fetch, rescue your master from a burning house are all in his repertoire.
It was that last trick that made Ranger a hero on June 28 when a fire started in the house where his 16-year-old master Steven Wright was deeply asleep. The fire would destroy the house on Fayetteville Road in Jonesboro where Wright lived with his sister and mother, Robin Wright.
Steven Wright's sister had just left when he settled in for a nap around 3:20 p.m. Then Ranger started whining.
"He kept on whining and he woke me up a couple of times," Wright said. "But I just thought he wanted to go outside so I ignored him."
Then Ranger got on the bed, something he never does, and grabbed Wright by the arm hard enough to leave teeth marks.
"I rolled over and opened my eyes and saw smoke everywhere," Wright said.
As Wright tells his tale, Ranger, a mid-sized 10-year-old mixed breed with a white and brown, Labrador-like body, is content to lie on his sleeping pad in the Kon Tiki Road rental home where the Wrights are staying for now. He chews pacifically on his favorite tennis ball and is happy to offer the well-moistened toy to any visitor willing to play with him.
Robin Wright said they got Ranger eight years ago, when he was around two years old, from the Henry County Humane Society. The Humane Society staff, after talking to the Wright's about what kind of family they were, recommended Ranger, but their relationship did not get off to a good start.
"When I saw him I didn't want him. I thought he was the ugliest dog in the world," Robin Wright said. "My son looked at him and it was love at first sight."
And after things really didn't work out with the dog they did pick that day, the Wrights went back for Ranger, and they've not had a regret since.
"He's pretty amazing," Robin Wright said.
There are many other stories of dogs, and sometimes cats, saving their masters from disaster.
In Utah a 10-month-old dog (species not given) is credited with saving its owner, a teenaged girl, from two armed kidnappers early this month, according to the ABC 4 KTVX Web site.
A Chihuahua named Roscoe supposedly saved the lives of the inhabitants of the Boysville home for abused and neglected children in Bexar County, Texas from a fire that broke out there in February 2001, according to the Web site for "The Scoop: Dogs in the News."
And last November a cat named Runty living in the Gold Coast in Australia warned its master when a fire started in the owner's apartment.
The Wrights say they've wondered sometimes if Ranger and other animal rescuers are more concerned about getting their owner to rescue them from the fire by opening the door than they are about saving the owner.
But Ranger clearly wasn't thinking only about himself that day in June. He was also obviously worried about "his cats," Pumpkin and Sammie.
"Ranger would not go outside. He wanted to get the cats out," Steven Wright said.
Wright said Ranger helped sniff out where Pumpkin was hiding when the fire started, and then he helped keep both cats out of the house while firefighters battled the blaze.
Dr. John McMillian at the Jonesboro Animal Hospital treated Ranger just after the incident, and he said the story certainly impressed him. McMillian said animals in those situations are probably thinking about their owners and themselves.
"A big dog like that could probably knock out a window if he needed to get out," McMillian said. "There's a lot of bonding between animals and humans."
Indeed, McMillian said there are many cases of dogs rescuing humans, especially children, in situations where their own survival didn't depend on the owner. On www.stunning-stuff.com there is a story about a dog saving its owner when a brown bear attacked him.
Robin Wright said electrical problems started the fire and it should be another six months before the house can be rebuilt. Meanwhile, Ranger the hero dog will still be standing guard over is three humans and two cats.