Throughout history, there have been stories of animals committing suicide. Two thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote about a horse that was so ashamed after unknowingly mating with his own mother, that he killed himself. While these types of stories sound improbable, there are cases where animals kill themselves, and no one knows why.
Every year, up to 2,000 whales and dolphins swim dangerously close to the shore and end up on dry land in a phenomenon called ‘beaching’. In 2015, a group of 200 whales beached themselves on a beach in New Zealand. Conservationists tried to return as many of them to the ocean as they could, but 100 of them died. Strangely, 60 of the whales that were returned to the water beached themselves again. There are many theories about why whales and dolphins beach themselves. Sickness or confusion caused by man-made sonar are possible reasons, but some people claim it’s suicide.
In recent news, Erika Poremski’s dog, Polo, sacrificed his own life to save Erika’s 8-month-old baby, Viv. Erika noticed her house was on fire when she stepped outside to get something from her car. She ran back into her house and up the stairs, but she couldn’t get through the smoke and flames. Erika tried multiple times, running in and out of the house trying to get up the stairs to her baby. At one point, she burned her face, and the skin on her hand melted off from grabbing the stairway rail. Eventually, the doorway burst into flames, and there was no way for Erika to get in again.
As Erika stood crying outside the burning house, the firefighters finally arrived. When they got into the house and up the stairs, they found Polo’s dead body covering the baby to protect her from the fire. Because of Polo’s sacrifice, the baby was only burned on her arm and side. Viv is now in the hospital suffering from likely brain damage, but she owes her life to Polo. Erika said, “He was my first baby before Viv. He was like my child.”
No one knows if animals have the ability to understand death, but Erika believes Polo knew what he was doing. She believes that Polo could have escaped, but made a conscious choice to stay and protect the baby.