A German shepherd dog

Meet the heroic dog who was shot three times protecting his owner

Dogs truly are man's best friend. There are other animals out there that have been domesticated for longer, are more useful and are probably smarter than your average canine: but it's hard to deny that the humble dog isn't the most loyal and most faithful companion. Since the first cave-dwelling homo sapiens tamed wolves, dogs have served and protected us in equal measure... when they're not pooping on the carpet or drinking out of the toilet, that is.

Of course, every pet pooch is a hero to their owner. But some dogs go above and beyond the loyalty of a pet and become the kind of heroes that would put the vast majority of people to shame. The world would be a very different place without the dedication of sniffer dogs, guide dogs, guard dogs, or any number of other gainfully employed mutts. But now, a valiant German shepherd seems to have outdone them all, with an unbelievable feat of bravery.

Javier Mercado, a 16-year-old boy from Des Moines, Iowa, was home alone on February 21, when burglars wielding firearms broke into his house. Hearing the sound of glass shattering, Mercado rushed to safety and hid in a nearby closet, quickly dialling 911 for help. He was terrified that he was about to be found, but just when the situation appeared hopeless, his heroic two-year-old German shepherd Rex leapt into action. The plucky dog began furiously barking at the intruders, before viciously attacking them. Rex fought bravely, and the robbers were so intimidated that they opened fire. Despite being shot in the leg, the knee and neck, Rex refused to back down. The perps were so intimidated by Rex's bravery that they fled the scene without taking anything. Meanwhile, Mercado remained undiscovered and unharmed thanks to his dog's bravery.

Commenting on the disturbing encounter, Mercado stated: "I heard the sliding door break, and it is made out of just glass so it shattered really loud ... My dog ran downstairs, and it just started barking and barking. I heard one guy scream: 'The dog bit me, get the dog' ... I could hear my dog, like, really close to me in the bathroom with me, just barking. And the man comes upstairs ... I heard one gunshot and several after that, and my dog just cried after every shot that hit him."

A german shepherd dog. Credit: Getty

Mercado's aunt stated: "Rex stormed back to the upstairs floor all beat up and bloody from the beating to check on his master who was still hiding in the closet. Soon, the burglars proceeded to the upstairs floor and trashed all the bedrooms. As they entered the room where my nephew was hiding in the closet, Rex came out with the little strength he had left in him and threw himself at them as he knew my nephew was in danger." Rex was immediately rushed to the vet, who managed to save his life despite injuries that could have easily felled a fully-grown human being, let alone a young dog. After X-rays and surgery, Rex's condition stabilised and he lived to see another day. Unfortunately, the cost of Rex's surgeries totalled approximately $10,000; but once word got out about the pup's heroic resolve, Rex's GoFundMe campaign managed to raise over $60,000 in just five days.

But poor Rex hasn't just been physically maimed by the gunmen. In fact, the vet who attended to his injuries believes that the poor pooch has actually been mentally traumatised by the incident, and will require a lot of love and patience to recover his trust in strangers again. Apparently, because he was kicked by the robbers at one point, Rex has developed something of a fear of boots, and often barks at shoes for no reasons. Canine behavioural consultant Julie Forbes explained that: "He’s going to need emotional help now... PTSD works in the same part of the brain in dogs as it does in people and any other mammal ... [Dogs] can make associations when they happen to see something in the same time of a traumatic event."

Rex has since been released from the vet and is recovering slowly, but he's expected to make a recovery within the next two months - although it's possible that he will henceforth be afflicted with arthritis. In the meantime, an official Facebook fan page has been set up in his honour, and Rex's grateful owners say that the plucky pooch can look forward to steak and rice dinners for the rest of his life. I'd say he deserves it, wouldn't you?