Consider this our salute to all the people who rescue and care for animals each day, even if they don't make the local newscast.

Losts dogs, endangered ducks, and a lonesome rabbit all needed saving this year, whether from us humans or their animal friends. Thankfully, countless rescuers, adopters, and heroes—including many we don't know about—were able to deliver. 

We salute everyone who played a part in these 12 pet rescues, but as the year comes to a close, we also want to thank everyone in the animal welfare industry for all their work caring for our pets during another pandemic year. Y'all are the best. 

woman holding dog who became lost soon after, then found a reunited
Credit: Courtesy of Brooklyn Richardson

On to our list: 

12. Jogger Rescues Pets From Burning Home

Paul Murphy was out for a jog in a California town when he saw a home smoking. Using the Ring doorbell camera, he notified the absent homeowner, who gave him the code to get inside. He saved the family's collection of pets—only minutes before the house would've burned. 

11. What's a Dog Doing Out Here?

In October, a group of friends were out boating off the Florida coast. (You know, in the ocean.) And what did they find? A dog struggling to swim without a life jacket. Thankfully, the boaters were able to pull the dog up, and later the pup reunited with his family. 

10. Beauty vs the Beast

Beauty the black Lab put herself between her beloved duck friends and an attacking alligator outside their Florida home. She was injured, including a broken leg, but saved some of her friends and is now recovering. Good girl! 

9. A Patient Rabbit Rescue

When someone left a pet rabbit alone outside Alicia Castro's apartment complex, she was determined to rescue him—even if it took days. Well, it did take days, but she eventually trapped him, and now he's living like a king with Castro's family. 

8. Roger That

Roger the collie mix had gone missing when his owner had traveled to Boise, Idaho. His family gave chase, but eventually he got lost and stayed that way for two months. Thankfully, the Ladies and the Trap rescue group stayed on the case, and an eagle-eyed neighbor helped reunite him with his owner. 

7. Moms: The Ultimate Heroes

This mother cat was living with her litter of kittens in a Canadian barn when the structure caught fire. She repeatedly rushed in to try to save her kittens, suffering severe burns and smoke inhalation. Sadly, she was only able to save one of her babies.

6. Cockapoo Survives Month in Colorado Forest

Bella the cockapoo became lost when her family was hiking in central Colorado. People lost hope as the days passed, but a man named Rosario Ochoa had seen the lost dog signs and then spotted the small, white pup. He eventually coaxed Bella into his care, and the reunion was on. 

5. Grieving Mother Dog Takes in Orphaned Puppies 

Pepper the momma dog had sadly lost her own litter of puppies earlier this year. Unfortunately, a nearby litter of puppies had lost their mother shortly after she gave birth to them. The heartbreaking stories soon came together, and Pepper took over mothering the young puppies, giving them the mom they deserved. 

4. Foster Dog Lost 1,200 Miles From Home

vacation photo of Murphy before getting lost
Credit: Courtesy of Brooklyn Richardson

Foster dog Murphy became spooked and ran away from his family while they were hiking in a Minnesota forest. After a few days of searching, the Richardsons had to return to Texas, but a rescue group helped them locate Murphy. The Richardsons decided they never wanted to leave him again, so they fully adopted him.

3. Cholla Charlie Gets the Ultimate Glow-Up

This Chihuahua was found covered in cactus needles over the summer in Arizona. The spines were "everywhere," including all over his face, but vets managed to remove them all. After recovering and living in a foster home, this happy puppy found his forever home. Cheers, buddy!

2. Senior Dog Dumped on Highway Finds New Home

Belky the elderly dog, obese and suffering from puncture wounds, had been abandoned on the side of a Michigan highway. When she was rescued by authorities, she needed extensive medical treatment, including healing her wounds and even losing some weight. Then she found a new owner who will love her unconditionally in her final years. 

1. No Pit of Despair for Hawkeye

Hawkeye had run away from his Indiana home and no one had located him for two weeks—until a group of cavers explored a hole 30 feet deep and found the unexpected surprise. They lifted him out of the deep pit and soon he was back with his family.