The Best Dog Stories of 2021 Will Warm Your Heart

2021 was a hard year for a lot of humans, but dogs collectively did their best to make our lives a little better. That’s no easy job!

Whether your BFF is a hero for always catching the frisbee, giving the best couch snuggles, or not pulling on the leash anymore, it’s worth celebrating. If you’re spoiling your dog this holiday, hook them up with some delicious and healthy homemade treats.

But this year some dogs went above and beyond. We’re talking dogs that fly airplanes, go on days-long solo adventures and make it home, or might even help you through a dentist appointment.

These heartwarming stories of talented, adventurous, and smart dogs are the perfect antidote for a long winter, and for warming up for the holiday season.

Here are some of the best boys and girls of the year.

Pilot Dogs

These dogs don’t just “sit” and “stay”: they can fly an airplane.

A TV company dreamt up the stunt. They wanted to prove that with care and attention, a rescue animal could grow and excel beyond our wildest dreams.

Enter Matthew Ward, professional dog trainer and pet behaviorist. With a long and successful history of training and working with animals, Ward had 6 weeks to train a dog to complete a figure 8 in a lightweight Cessna.

The dogs needed to be trained on the nuances of using the steering. Ward broke the big steps into smaller steps, ultimately helping the dogs master small movements.

Using a system of lights and sounds — red for right, blue for left, and white for straight ahead, a different tone for each color — Ward was able to teach the dogs when and how to push, pull, or turn the aircraft’s stern and yoke.

Trainers agreed the hardest part of training the excited dogs was helping them time and understand exactly when and how to move.

While a human brought the flight to altitude, and also landed the plane, the dogs took over at the 3000 ft. cruising altitude. Trainers sat behind the dogs during the flight while the dogs faced forward, secured to their chairs.

3 dogs — Shadow, Alfie, and Reggie — made it through the training. Each handled steering the Cessna and flew for minutes at a time.

But only Shadow successfully completed the figure 8.

The best part? The dogs found their forever homes after the flight.

Tripod Dog with Big Dreams

A Norwich Terrier named Rascal had a leg amputated due to cancer.

Now, he might be on his way to the AKC finals — basically the canine Olympics.

The AKC rules for performing in the finals are simple. Dogs must be 6 months or older, classified as a recognized and registered breed, unneutered, and healthy. Rascal qualified easily.

It also helps if the dog has a history in competition. Rascal’s owners said in the 2020 AKC Fast Coursing Ability Test, he took on the 100-yard run and qualified as the nation’s fastest Norwich Terrier.

But that was when Rascal had 4 legs. Now, he’s taking on his quadrupedal competition with a slight disadvantage, but a lot of heart.

Lark Shlimbaum, Rascal’s 72-year-old owner, has been competing for over 15 years and pushed the AKC to allow tripod dogs to compete. Her movement garnered thousands of likes and shares on Facebook.

Now, Rascal has a real chance to win in December.

Dentist’s Assistant

Not a fan of the dentist? Maybe you’d be more comfortable cuddling with a Frenchie while your cavity gets filled.

At Dr. Trembley’s dentistry Smile On Nashville, that’s exactly the premise.

Trembley’s young Frenchie PeeWee is a staple at the office, regularly comforting patients as they sit under the bright lights getting work done on their teeth.

PeeWee started coming to the office with his owner at 6 months, instead of staying alone at home all day. The dog loved interacting with patients and staff, and quickly became a crucial part of the practice.

On the office’s social media channels, there are plenty of videos of Peewee resting on people’s chests while they lay in the patient’s chair getting work done.

The science is real — dogs can reduce anxiety and increase mood. That means PeeWee’s tapping into something that’s especially true in a dentist’s office: he’s helping to dissipate stress.

Nerves can be high when it comes to getting work done on your mouth. A friendly, sweet Frenchie might be just the right way to help you sit through those long or uncomfortable sessions.

Right-Hand Dog

As far as feel good dog stories go, this one’s a tear-jerker.

Fossy, a therapy German Shepard who helps his owner manage PTSD, escaped from his kennel after a move from New York to Ohio.

An Afghanistan army veteran, his owner Nick Rankin reached out to the community on Facebook for help, posting about Fossy’s escape. He also contacted the police.

Nick said in his Facebook post that Fossy went everywhere with him, and was especially worried because the dog had hardly been alone since he was a puppy.

The new community stepped up. In only a couple of days, Fossy’s whereabouts were narrowed down to an area about 4 miles away from Rankin’s home. After some humane traps were set, Fossy was caught in someone’s yard.

When Fossy saw Rankin, he cried out. Rankin’s happy post was a major win not only them, but for the whole internet.

Unlikely BFFs

Dogs can be protective of your home, which automatically makes your mailperson a trespasser.

If your pup is notorious for barking at any noise around the front door, they should take a note from this dog.

Bridget (@otegdirb on TikTok) posted a sweet video of her 16-year-old dog. For over a decade, this aging brown dog waits on her mailperson to show up every day.

The video shows her hustling off her soft perch on the deck and lumbering to the curbside to meet her friend, say hi and get a treat. Her tail is wagging wildly.

It’s every bit as sweet and fulfilling as you’d expect, and the internet had an appropriately intense meltdown over the duo’s unlikely relationship. The video has over 11 million views.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take 30 seconds out of your busy day for this heartwarming dog video.

Give Your Dog the Best

For dog lovers, it’s not the holidays without your pets.

Your dog might have their own stocking, special holiday meal, or even pajamas to match with you.

No matter what kind of dog parent you are, finding the perfect gift for Fido this holiday season isn’t easy. Another boring rawhide isn’t going to cut it.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect cold-weather dog gear for playing in snow, a tasty homemade dog treat recipe, or some fresh accessories, we’ve got you covered.

Find the perfect holiday gifts for your dog >

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