Throughout history, numerous dogs and cats have left a distinctive mark, fostering unique connections and narratives that defy the norm. At Figo, we call them cool.
These animals, whether widely celebrated or unsung, tell us a lot about the bond that exists between humans and their pets.
Here, we spotlight the remarkable cats and dogs whose stories made us go "wow!"
In the 1920s in Japan, Hachiko, an Akita dog, became a national symbol of loyalty and fidelity. Every day, Hachiko would wait at the Shibuya train station for his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, to return from work. Tragically, Ueno passed away suddenly in 1925, but Hachiko continued to wait for him at the station every day for nearly 10 years until his own death.
His unwavering devotion touched the hearts of many, and a bronze statue was erected in his honor at the station, a spot that has become a popular meeting point and a testament to the remarkable bond between humans and dogs. Every year on April 8th, a ceremony is held at Shibuya station to remember Hachiko’s remarkable loyalty.
Read more: Why are dogs so loyal to humans?
Balto, a Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute mix, emerged as an unsung hero in 1925 during a dire health crisis known as the "Great Race of Mercy." 90s kids may know Balto as the subject of a 1995 animated film.
As the true story goes, Nome, Alaska was in the grips of a diphtheria outbreak, and the only way to transport the lifesaving serum to the town was through a treacherous sled dog relay spanning almost 700 miles in extreme winter conditions.
Balto was the lead dog of the final team, guided by musher Gunnar Kaasen, in this relay. Despite blizzards, freezing temperatures, and perilous ice, Balto led his team with an unyielding spirit and navigational prowess, helping them cover the final stretch of 53 miles. His courage and determination played a vital role in saving the lives of many residents of Nome.
Balto’s heroism was recognized, and a statue was erected in his honor in New York's Central Park just 10 months after the event. Balto himself was present at its unveiling.
3. Station Master Tama
In 2007, Kishi train station in Wakayama, Japan, took a creative step to revive its dwindling fortunes: they appointed Tama, a local stray calico cat, as their Station Master. Donned in a custom cap, Tama warmly greeted passengers, rapidly becoming a nationwide sensation and drastically boosting the local economy with a surge in tourism and inspired merchandise.
The station even opened a café in her honor and allowed other strays to reside there, fostering a warm, community-centric atmosphere. Tama climbed corporate ranks, earning titles like "Super Station Master" and "Operating Officer," making her the first feline executive in the world.
Though she passed away in 2015, her legacy lives on, with a shrine dedicated to her and a successor, Nitama, continuing to welcome visitors with a comforting, furry presence.
4. Greyfriars Bobby
In the heart of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, a Skye Terrier named Greyfriars Bobby became the epitome of loyalty and friendship in the 19th century. Bobby belonged to John Gray, a night watchman with the city's police force. Together, the inseparable pair patrolled Edinburgh's cobbled streets until Gray succumbed to tuberculosis in 1858.
From that moment, Bobby started an extraordinary vigil, guarding Gray's grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard for 14 years, leaving only for food - similar to the tale of Hitachi above.
The locals were moved by Bobby's unwavering loyalty and took it upon themselves to care for him, providing food and shelter. His faithfulness resonated deeply, eventually reaching the ears of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, a known animal lover. Chambers decided to pay for Bobby's license, ensuring he could legally remain at his master's side.
Today, a bronze statue and a commemorative gravestone near Greyfriars Kirkyard entrance stand as a testament to his loyalty and the deep bonds that can exist between humans and their pets.
In 2007, James Bowen, a street musician and recovering addict in London, had his life transformed by a chance encounter with a stray ginger cat. Struggling to make ends meet and turning his life around, Bowen found the injured cat in the hallway of his building. Realizing that the cat was in bad shape, he decided to take him in temporarily, nursing him back to health. This act of kindness marked the beginning of a bond that would change both their lives.
Over time, the inseparable pair became well-known fixtures in the local area, with Bob often seen perched on Bowen's shoulders as he played music on the streets or sold the Big Issue.
Their remarkable story caught the attention of a literary agent, leading to a bestselling book series that chronicles their adventures and deep connection. The book "A Street Cat Named Bob" was later adapted into a successful movie, catapulting the duo to international fame.
In the volatile backdrop of the Iraq war, a surprising friendship emerged between a stray dog named Nubs and Marine Major Brian Dennis. The duo met at an Iraqi border fort where Dennis was stationed. Nubs, dubbed so due to his cropped ears, a common mark of a leader among wild dogs in the region, quickly bonded with Dennis. They became inseparable, providing comfort to each other in a chaotic setting.
When Dennis had to move 70 miles away due to a reassignment, Nubs was unwilling to let go of his person. He braved a strenuous two-day journey through a conflict zone to reunite with Dennis - managing to find Dennis's new location against all odds.
Eventually, Dennis arranged for Nubs to be relocated to the U.S., securing a peaceful and safe future for his resilient canine friend.
The first animal to orbit the Earth, Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, marked a significant, albeit tragic, milestone in the space race.
Laika, a small, mixed-breed stray dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, was chosen by the Soviet space program. This ambitious step was seen as a precursor to human spaceflight, aiming to investigate the potential impacts of such a journey on a living organism.
Despite the high stakes of the mission, the Soviet space program unfortunately did not possess the technology to return Laika safely to Earth. On November 3, 1957, Laika was launched aboard Sputnik 2. The mission garnered significant media attention, making Laika a household name worldwide. Sadly, due to a failure in the temperature control system, Laika did not survive the mission.
Her sacrifice, though controversial, provided vital data that would pave the way for successful human spaceflights in the future. It also raised concerns about the ethics of involving animals in scientific feats, a discussion still being debated to this day.
8. Swansea Jack
Swansea Jack, a black retriever with a notable reputation, emerged as a local hero in Swansea, Wales during the 1930s. This remarkable dog was known for his numerous rescues in the Swansea docks and River Tawe, where he saved a reported 27 people from potential drowning.
His sharp instincts and swift reactions made him a cherished figure in the community. His first rescue was a 12-year-old boy, and following this, Jack didn't hesitate to jump into action whenever he perceived someone in distress in the waters.
Jack's heroism was widely recognized, garnering him several awards including the Bravest Dog of the Year and a silver cup from the Lord Mayor of London. His brave exploits were documented widely, cementing his status as a legendary figure in Swansea.
Even today, Swansea Jack's legacy lives on, celebrated as a symbol of bravery and loyalty, with a memorial erected in his honor by the local council to commemorate his contributions to the community.
In a quiet neighborhood in Obninsk, Russia, a feral cat named Masha became an unexpected heroine. Masha was well-known to locals as she had made the streets her home for many years. The community looked out for her, offering food and affection. In return, Masha kept a watchful eye on her neighborhood.
One winter day in 2015, her vigilance proved to be life-saving. Masha stumbled upon an abandoned baby boy in a box in an apartment block's stairwell. She climbed into the box to keep the infant warm and began to meow loudly to attract attention.
Her persistent cries eventually caught the ear of a nearby resident, who was accustomed to seeing her around but hadn't expected such distress signals. Rushing to investigate, the resident discovered Masha curled protectively around the baby, offering her warmth to shield him from the harsh winter temperatures.
The baby, only a few months old, was quickly taken to a hospital and found to be in good condition, thanks in large part to Masha's efforts. The tale of Masha's heroism spread quickly, turning her into a local celebrity.
Did Masha know the baby needed protection? Who knows, but she saved him either way.
In the small town of Holyhead, North Wales, an unexpected friendship blossomed that's basically a real-life Disney movie plot. Terfel, an older Labrador Retriever, was having a pretty rough time, having lost his sight to cataracts. The world became a series of obstacles, relegating him to his bed, where at least he wouldn't bump into walls and objects.
Enter Pwditat, a local cat with an evident knack for understanding others' needs. This intuitive cat wasn't about to let Terfel miss out on life's adventures. Unbelievably, Terfel’s owner started to observe Pwditat tapping Terfel gently with a paw to guide him around obstacles and show him the best spots in the garden.
With Pwditat’s help, Terfel was able to once again enjoy the little things in life, with his trusty cat guide always by his side.
Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.