We have a soft spot for heartwarming stories of animals who are saved from danger by hardworking police officers and firefighters. But what makes these amazing stories even better is when those animals seem to display their thanks to their rescuers.

We’ve seen many of those sweet moments captured on camera this year, including a dog dramatically lifted from Texas floodwaters, a cat saved from the subway tracks in New York and a fawn who jumped right into a firefighter’s arms. Check out our favorite stories in the gallery below.

Duke, a Belgian Malinois, wasn’t shy about showing his adoration for his rescuers in McKinney, Texas, in November. When they became trapped in floodwaters, the dog’s owner, Edward Emmerich, managed to hold onto Duke while calling 911 for help. Firefighters found the pair by pinging Emmerich’s cellphone and lifted them to safety. "[Duke’s] feet hit the ground, and he almost instantly went toward the firefighter who had saved him, jumped all over him, licked all over him," photographer Michael O'Keefe, who witnessed the rescue, told NBC DFW. "It was real touching to watch.” O’Keefe captured the scene on camera.

Pazzy the kitten had sweet kisses for his rescuer and namesake, New York police officer John Passarella. The officer went out of his way to pull the scared kitten from the engine block of a minivan in June, squeezing under the vehicle on his back and getting his arms under some belts to grab hold of the cat. Then he found a home for the little guy with a fellow officer, ABC News reported. "[I'm] definitely ecstatic that someone I know personally was able to take the cat," Passarella told the station. "Definitely gives me peace of mind knowing that it's going to be OK."

In July, the NYPD came to the rescue of another cat. George’s owner had him on a leash on a Manhattan subway platform on their way home from a vet visit when the cat got spooked by the noise from the train and broke free. George’s owner flagged down the operator of the incoming train and got him to stop, while his brother went for help. The MTA turned off power to the tracks, and two NYPD officers climbed down to get the scared cat. "I gave him a little scratch on the head. He looked at us. I picked him up; he reached for both of my shoulders like a baby. He almost hugged me," officer Brian Kenny told amNewYork. The other riders on the platform cheered as Kenny handed George back to his owner. 

In July, a Vizsla, who was found by hikers stuck on a high ledge on a trail in Salt Lake City, got a piggyback ride to safety. Firefighters hiked more than two miles to reach the dog. After giving her some water, firefighter Tom Stowe loaded the injured dog onto his shoulders and carried her back down the trail before dark. "We're just happy that the dog is OK, and we had a successful rescue," Fire Captain Ginger Barraclough told ABC 4 Utah. The firefighters said Rue had likely run off during a fireworks display for July Fourth. She was reunited with her owners.

This senior Golden Retriever was playing chase with her family’s younger dog near the bank of a Michigan river in June when she lost her footing and tumbled into the water. Alma District firefighters arrived on the scene to find the exhausted older dog hanging onto a branch in the river, struggling to stay afloat. The crew performed a water rescue — and just look at how sweetly the relieved dog gazes at the man who saved her.

Puppies often find themselves in trouble, too. Firefighters in Ocala, Florida, got a call in November from a concerned citizen who could hear yelps coming from a culvert. There, they discovered an adorable chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy. They coaxed her to a spot where they could reach her and pulled her out of the drainage pipe, Ocala.com reported. The whole crew quickly fell for the pup — and one of the firefighters adopted her, according to a Facebook update from the fire department.

Of course, firefighters come to the rescue of animals who aren’t dogs and cats, too — including this fawn in North Carolina. A resident, who heard the baby deer’s cries coming from a storm drain in June, called 911 for help. Two firefighters lowered themselves into the drain, and they didn’t have to convince this animal to trust them — the fawn leapt right into firefighter Holly Holton’s arms. An animal control officer examined it once it was back above ground then let it run right back to Mom, who was pacing in the woods nearby, WNCN reported.
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