By Jessica Remitz
From military dogs to therapy, guide, and rescue dogs, service animals are everyday heroes for their owners and role models for fellow pups-in-training worldwide. Here are just a few stories of these dogs doing their jobs with exceptional outcomes.
A Golden Retreiver trained as a service animal and guide dog, Yolanda saved her owner, Pennsylvania resident Maria Colon, from being burglarized and potentially killed by calling local police and bringing the phone to her.
When two men, identified as Colon’s neighbors, entered her home, Yolanda chased the intruders and pressed a large “9-1-1” button on Colon’s phone. By the time Yolanda brought Colon the receiver, the police operator was already on the line. Colon made her way downstairs, where all of her oven burners were reportedly turned on and emitting gas. Police officers led her and Yolanda out of the home safely.
Read more about Yolanda and Maria here.
Lucas Hembree, a Tennessee boy with a rare genetic disorder called Sanfilippo syndrome, isn’t like other 5-year-old boys, and neither is his dog Juno. A Belgian Malinois that the Hembree family rescued from a local shelter, Juno has been trained to spend her time monitoring Lucas. Because of his condition, Lucas has limited mobility, eyesight, and hearing, and must wear braces on his legs, eyeglasses, and hearing aids to help his movement and senses.
Lucas’s father, Chester, researched purchasing a service dog for the boy, but the $15,000 price tag was just too much for the family’s budget. So Chester focused on looking for dog breeds that are commonly used as service dogs. When Chester heard of a Belgian Malinois scheduled to be euthanized at a nearby shelter, the family immediately went and adopted Juno. Chester expected Juno to help Lucas walk without falling and monitor his mobility, but was surprised to learn that Juno can also detect when Lucas is about to have a seizure. Since then, the boy and his dog have been inseparable.
Read more about Juno and Lucas here.
Five Golden Retrievers from Chicago — Addy, Maggie, Luther, Ruthie, and Isiah, have been spending a majority of the year on the east coast comforting children, families and hospital patients that were affected by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting and April 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon.
The dogs, which were dispatched by Lutheran Church Charities in Illinois, were sent to Connecticut to visit schools, hospitals and anywhere else they could help comfort families in need. They even attended the interfaith memorial held at Newtown High School where President Barack Obama spoke. Two of the dogs, Addy and Maggie, stayed in the area until they were called to Boston. The dogs then participated in Lutheran church services at a church just blocks away from the bombing, where they remained available to visitors. The dog also visited neighboring areas.
Pastor Ingo Dutzmann of the First Lutheran Church in Boston told the Huffington Post that the dogs have an ability to recognize sadness and distress in people and can help them to process their feelings in a crisis situation.
See pictures of the therapy dogs and read more about their story here.
When Bethe Bennett fell in her Arizona home, breaking her femur and losing consciousness for a period time, she knew no visitors would be there to help her for nearly four days. Fortunately, her Miniature Schnauzer Danny was at her side to help save her. A trained service dog that used to care for Bennett’s mother, Danny licked Bennett’s face to help her regain consciousness and brought her a telephone by knocking it over. When Bennett realized the paramedics might not be able to reach her in her locked home, she shouted for Danny to bring papers to her, one of which had the phone numbers of her neighbors. With Danny’s help, she called her neighbors and they unlocked the door to her home with a hidden spare key just as the paramedics were arriving to help her.
Read more about Danny and Bethe’s story here.
A retired military service dog, Lucca lost her leg as a result of an explosion in Afghanistan during her six-year service in the United States Marine Corps. She suffered serious burns to her chest and torso in addition to losing her leg in the explosion, but not before she helped save the lives of every human on patrol with her. The nine-year-old German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix continued to work in the military until her retirement in May 2012. She was adopted by her original handler and continues to work as an ambassador for all soldier dogs nationwide. She’s also been nominated for the 2013 Hero Dog Award.
Read more about Lucca here.
Hero the service dog became an online sensation during this year’s graduation season as he assisted his owner, who uses a wheelchair, on stage to receive her master’s degree at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Hero's owner, who outfitted Hero in a cap and gown that matched her own, said online that Hero knows over forty commands to assist her, including retrieving her school supplies and crutches, turning off lights, opening doors, and pulling her up wheelchair ramps. She added that without Hero, she wouldn’t have been able to go to college.
Read more about Hero here.
After saving 50 American soldiers in Afghanistan from a suicide bomber, Rufus the mixed breed received a hero’s welcome in the United States, as well as a family to call his own. When a bomber crept onto the army base in the middle of the night to attack a barracks where soldiers were sleeping, he was stopped by Rufus and two other stray dogs living on the base, Target and Sasha. The dogs barked to alert the sleeping soldiers of an intruder and bit the terrorist’s leg to keep him from entering the barracks. Because of the dogs, the bomber detonated the explosives before reaching the inside of the building and the soldiers were able to escape.
Rufus, Target, and several soldiers were wounded as a result of the blast, but they all survived. Sasha, one of the three dogs, was killed with the bomber. Sgt. Chris Duke, who was wounded by shrapnel during the incident, adopted Rufus with the help of the Puppy Rescue Mission, who were able to bring Rufus home to Georgia to live with his new family. Target was also adopted. She will be living in Arizona with the army medic who saved her from the injuries she sustained in the explosion.
Read more about Sgt. Chris Duke and Rufus here.
High school golfer Megan Shirley suffers from an unusual condition. In addition to having type-1 diabetes, she also has hypoglycemia unawareness, which makes it difficult for her to recognize symptoms of high or low blood sugar until it is too late for her to administer insulin or eat a snack to help even out her blood sugar levels. That’s where her diabetic alert service dog, Sport, comes in. The one-year-old Golden Retriever has been trained to monitor Shirley’s blood sugar levels by scent. When her sugar is not at normals levels, whether high or low, he fetches a small blue toy and brings it to Shirley to alert her to take insulin or consume carbohydrates.
Sport follows Shirley everywhere, from the golf course to her bedroom, and has alerted her of dangerous blood sugar levels several times while she was sleeping. If left untreated, low blood sugar can lead to seizures or a loss of consciousness, which is why Sport was trained to detect Shirley’s levels 15 to 20 minutes ahead of when they could cause a problem. Sport's ability to detect blood sugar levels is relatively uncommon. The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners estimates there to be fewer than 500 diabetic alert service dogs in use nationwide.
Read more about Megan and Sport here.