Talk about a famous dog. Yellow Lab Gabe has more than 20,000 Facebook friends. He counts actresses Betty White and Whoopi Goldberg as his friends and has just been named Hero Dog of the Year by the American Humane Association.
Gabe's journey began when as a street dog in Houston, Texas, after his family abandoned him. He learned great survival skills while out on the streets including fighting off coyotes and other stray dogs, but then his luck ran out. He was captured by a local animal control worker. As the lab glanced around "doggie jail" he still did not understand why his family had abandoned him and why he had ended up in this place. "That yellow lab over there has thirty days. If he isn't adopted he will have to be euthanized." Gabe's future was bleak.
With only one day left before he was to be euthanized, Gabe finally got a break when he was rescued by the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization. The tough former street dog had the survival instincts that the caretaker thought would be a perfect fit for a dog to assist our troops overseas and sniff out explosives. Gabe was sent to join the US Army as a Military Working Dog and his life was forever changed.
After three weeks of training, Gabe was paired with handler, Army Staff Sergeant Charles Shuck and the two entered the new Specialized Search Dog Program at the Department of Defense Dog School at Lackland Airbase in Texas. During his final certification testing, Gabe dominated the trials in Yuma, Arizona, received a perfect score, and was then on his way, with Chuck, to Mosul, Iraq to sniff out explosives and save soldiers lives! No longer a street dog, Gabe was now a United States Army Specialized Search Dog.
Gabe's job while on duty was to find hidden guns and explosives. While deployed, the brave canine completed over 210 combat missions with 26 finds of explosives and weapons. During his down time, he also visited wounded troops in combat hospital as well as children in elementary schools.
After his return to the United States, Gabe was awarded the 2008 Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club. He also received three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal and 40 coins of excellence. Last month, the now retired MWD was named the Hero Dog of the Year.
"It is vital that we honor and protect all our military heroes – at both ends of the leash," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. "Military working dogs have been a vital, life-saving part of our armed services and they deserve our support when they can no longer work. The public agrees as we dramatically saw firsthand during this year's annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ when after 3 million votes were cast by the American public, Military Working Dog Gabe was chosen as the nation's top American Hero Dog."
Today, Gabe is enjoying retirement, lives with Chuck in his home and the two are closer than ever. Chuck laughs when he explains that the once trim dog has done like most retirees – gained about 25 pounds. The two continue to visit schools, but this time they try to bring awareness to the public about the plight of shelter dogs and why it is important to adopt dogs in need. Gabe and Chuck were awarded $10,000 for being the winning dog and will donate their prize money to the United States War Dogs Association.