Of Heroism: Human and Animal

From San Francisco there comes the final, heartwrenching page in a story about human compassion and heroism.

The story has full details but the important points to note are that after safely escaping a fire in a house he was minding on Russian Hill on February 6, 2007, Michael James Keenan realized that the dog, Bobby, hadn’t made it out.

He turned around and immediately ran in to rescue the dog. Unfortunately, he had to search for Bobby, who was hiding from the fire. He didn’t give up, kept searching and eventually rescued Bobby.

Both were badly burned. Bobby eventually made a recovery courtesy of Pets Unlimited. Unfortunately, Michael James Keenan suffered complications from his burns and passed away this past weekend.

The story notes in passing but it should be recognized that Mr. Keenan clearly put himself at even greater risk by spending time looking for Bobby and not leaving him behind when he could not find him quickly. And, indeed, it would seem that he ultimately paid the price for that. The burns he suffered and which surely contributed to his death being the result of the extra time spent looking for Bobby.

Bobby has recovered, according to the latest news available regarding him. And so at least Mr. Kennan’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain.

You hear so often about dogs who selflessly risk their lives for humans. It is rare though to see humans reciprocate and take the same risks for our companion animals that they would take for us. And so it is because of this fact that this story is so poignant and the loss of Mr. Kennan, whom I’ve never met, heartwrenching. You cannot help but want someone who risks their life in this way to be rewarded, not to suffer because of what they did.

But, this reminds us that this is not a just or fair universe. But too, this reminds us that there are some human beings who respond to an unjust and unfair universe not by using that fact for their own personal gain but instead try to make it a better world.

I often criticize when people are said to be “animals” on the grounds that it’s a disservice to animals. Animals are not malicious the way humans are. And animals can often be much more selfless and giving than humans can. This is an instance, though, where I think it’s just and fair to say that Mr. Kennan in his actions showed himself to be as noble as any animal, especially dogs, out there. He deserves our remembrances and honoring of his memory and his example.

Unfortunately, the article does not indicate any place donations or other remembrances can be made. However, there is a page in his name with a picture of him and, presumably, Charlie, his dog mentioned in the article.

Updated: There is information in the blog put up by his friends and family saying that there will be a ceremony at Fort Funston in San Francisco on July 8, 2007. More details will be posted there.