This was my first time meeting Gabe. A lazy, fully grown dog, who was very sweet.
Even with kids poking at him, he just dealt with it by giving kisses, or just thumping his tail.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized we were playing with a hero! The sweet handsome boy in the pictures (the four legged one) was the American Hero Dog of 2012. He hadn’t won the award when we met him, the pictures were taken in 2011, but Gabe was already a hero!
Gabe’s story as we know it began in 2006, when he was rescued from a shelter by a labrador retriever rescue. Apparently they saw something special in him, as he was soon adopted into the United States Army. He was paired with Staff Sergeant Charles (Chuck) Shuck, also in 2006, and they trained together for five months. After passing his training with flying colors the pair were soon on a plane to Iraq.
During their 13 month deployment, Gabe and Chuck completed 210 missions, with 26 weapons and explosives finds, more than any other dog. The most notable find was along the Tigris River, where Gabe found 36 mortar rounds, preventing them from later being fashioned into up to 36 devices to be used by the enemy.
Chuck has had many amazing things to say about this sweet dog, stating that he was a trooper, just doing the job and said that every find they had, even down to a single bullet, meant there was one less weapon for the enemy.
When it came time for Chuck’s reassignment, Gabe was paired with another handler. Gabe had other ideas though, and refused to work with the new handler. Chuck was permitted to adopt Gabe in 2009, traveling to multiple duty stations with him, until he came to his forever home in Ft. Jackson, SC.
After years of service to his country, winning three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal and dozens of coins of excellence, it would be easy to relax into the lap of doggy luxury. Gabe however became a voice for shelter dogs. Encouraging people to find their dogs from those most in need of a home. He also campaigned for, and won, the 2012 American Humane Society’s Hero Dog Award.
Gabe’s time, sadly, came to cross the rainbow bridge in February 2013. Cancer had consumed this American hero and Chuck faced the hardest decision that a pet owner can face.
I think it is very important to remember that this amazing hero dog came from humble beginnings. As the proud owner of two rescue dogs, I can tell you that with love and attention, these dogs can do amazing things. So while we celebrate amazing animals like Gabe, who saved an untold number of lives while serving our counry, and who knows how many four legged lives by promoting shelter adoptions, all pets have the potential for greatness, all they need is our love.
I borrowed this photo of Gabe from a friend of mine’s Facebook page. Gabe had a loving home which is what all dogs really want.
If you want to read about another four-legged hero, check out Sallie’s story here.