As Ben Heinrichs worked in his family's vehicle shop in Caswell Lakes, Alaska, a heater ignited the gasoline that he was working with and he suffered flash burns to his face and hand. As the flames grew, Ben quickly escaped the shop and rolled in the snow to put out the flames. As he left the shop, he remembers that he closed the door to keep the flames from spreading. He then remembered that his German Shepherd Dog Buddy, was still in the building, so he let him out. "I just told him, 'We need to get help,' and then that's the last time I seen him," Heinrichs said. "I didn't train him or nothing. He just took off and went and did what he did. ... He was just being a good dog."
Several people from the neighborhood watch had called in about the fire and State Trooper Terrence Shanigan had been dispatched to the area. It seemed that the officer was having trouble finding the scene because his global positioning device was not working properly. As the officer was driving around in the dark searching for the fire in the Caswell Lakes area, which has approximately 75 miles of back roads, he saw Buddy near an intersection. When Shanigan slowed down, the dog looked at him and took off running down a side road. Shanigan acted on a hunch that the dog was there for a reason, and began to drive behind the running dog. The dog took three turns and continued to look back to make sure that the car was still following him. Once the trooper took the final turn, he spotted the shop, which was then engulfed in flames and very near to Heinrichs' house. A videocam on the trooper's car shows the dog leading him through winding back roads to his owner's shop on Caswell Lakes.
According to accounts, Shanigan said Buddy stopped at the end of the driveway and turned around to wait for him. When Shanigan got out of his parked car, the dog ran around the patrol vehicle and approached him, jumped up and down and nudged him as he walked up the driveway to the burning building. Afterwards, Buddy disappeared, presumably into the woods. The trooper was then able to guide local firefighters to the site of the fire.
"Buddy's valiant actions saved Trooper Shanigan valuable time in responding to the fire," said Alaska State Trooper Director Col. Audie Holloway. "Buddy's pluckiness is a bright spot among an otherwise tragic event for the Heinrichs family."
Buddy's valiant efforts were awarded at a ceremony at the Alaska State Troopers headquarters. The family received a letter and Buddy received a metal dog bowl engraved with the troopers' logo and Buddy's name, along with the words, "In appreciation of your diligence and assistance to Alaska State Troopers."