This week: Surprising little hero One of my favourite breeds of dog has always been the Pomeranian. I have had 16 of them in my life, not all together mind you. I only have one left and he just turned the ripe old age of 19 in July this year; his and my soul mate, another Pomeranian, passed away earlier this year aged 18. And yes, that is human years. As a breed they have an exceedingly poor and undeserved reputation for being noisy and useless. The latter seems to be a general bias to some or all toy breed dogs. It is far from the truth and I have a story about a brave Pomeranian to tell today. Describing the temperament of a breed in general is fraught with generalisation. As with horoscope descriptions it tends to be a generalisation which could apply to any breed, but with Pomeranians it rings quite true. They are an undeniably charming breed that can worm their way into the hearts of those that don't normally like toy dogs. They are surprisingly independent and confident with bountiful amounts of energy. They are brave and surprisingly intelligent and can be trained to do tricks easily. They can be fiercely loyal and may provoke dogs much larger than themselves. Because of this defiant personality, puppies that are not trained or socialised properly at an early stage can become rather dominant and stubborn. Children love Pomeranians, but as a breed they tend to be a little too delicate for kids and will become impatient and even snap if threatened. My initial attraction to Pomeranians was the same as most people - I found them cute and cuddly and then quickly found out their loyal and intelligent personality. But my undying love for the breed occurred when I heard and got involved in a friend's Pomeranian story. In Australia, bush fires are common in the summer. When they get out of control and occur near urban populations it can get very dangerous very quickly. During the summer school breaks when I was young I would often head off to my friend Martin's place out in the bush. He lived about 600km northwest of Melbourne where his family had a homestead in the middle of a eucalyptus forest. They owned horses and it was a rare chance for urban-bound me to come in contact with these magnificent animals. But there was another animal on the homestead that I longed to see every year and it was his ever-restless Pomeranian named Joo Joo. The little dog was cute and seemed totally out of place in the wilds of Australia but it still seemed to thrive there. I could spend a whole day lazing on the verandah watching this little dog chase off wild cats, dig holes and prance about like he owned the place. He would chase dragonflies, examine rabbit burrows and mark his territory among his dingo neighbours. If you called out to him, he would wag his tail and come straight over thinking he was going to be an invaluable help. He was just a remarkable dog. I adored him. One summer there was a huge bush fire that raged through the area of the homestead and the first thought that came to mind was my friend's family and this little dog. After a day of trying to call Martin, I finally got through and he told me that everyone was safe but the homestead was burnt down. I asked him about Joo Joo and he told me an amazing story. The family had some advance warning about the approaching bush fire and were about to leave the scene when, at the last minute, Joo Joo jumped from the back of the truck and ran straight for the oncoming fire. There was no time because the fire brigade had just arrived to save the homestead and had cordoned off the home. There was no chance to go after Joo Joo. Martin went to the arranged fire shelter several kilometres away to await the sad news about the homestead and the fate of Joo Joo. What a surprise then when a team of firemen rescued Joo Joo the next day and presented him in rather good condition, with just singed fur. And what a story the firemen had to tell. When they first encountered Joo Joo, the dog was in the process of saving four kittens from the fire. Joo Joo had individually lifted each kitten by the scruff of their necks to safety. And when the last kitten was safe and the firemen had rescued this amazing Pomeranian, he ran off again into the fire. After a few moments there was a sound of barking off in the distance. A couple of firemen went off to investigate. What they discovered was startling: they found Joo Joo barking next to an unconscious fireman. Thanks to Joo Joo, he had saved the lives of four kittens and a fireman - not a bad day's work for a toy breed dog. I accompanied Martin and Joo Joo to the hospital to visit the injured fireman, and what a memorable scene it was. The fireman's wife gave Joo Joo a hug while the fire squad presented Joo Joo with a trophy. Joo Joo died four years ago at the ripe old age of 23.