Friday, April 23, 2010

Alaska dog honored for leading troopers to fire

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Buddy the German shepherd was hailed Friday as a hero for guiding Alaska State Troopers through winding back roads to a fire at his owners' workshop.

"Buddy's pluckiness is a bright spot among an otherwise tragic event for the Heinrichs family," Col. Audie Holloway, head of the troopers, said in a statement.

The dog, whose good deed was caught on a patrol car's dashcam video, received a stainless steel dog bowl engraved with words of appreciation from troopers for his "diligence and assistance."

The dashcam video shows Buddy meeting the trooper's vehicle, then dashing to the Caswell Lakes property on April 4.

According to troopers, the dog and owner Ben Heinrichs were in a detached workshop when a heater ignited chemicals. The 23-year-old man ran outside to put out the flames, closing the door to keep the blaze from spreading.

Heinrichs then realized Buddy was still inside the burning building and let the dog out, but suffered minor burns on his face and second-degree burns on his hand. Buddy was not injured.

"Buddy, we need to get help," Heinrichs told the dog, who then ran into the nearby woods and onto Caswell Loop Road.

That's where Buddy encountered the trooper, Terrence Shanigan, whose global positioning device had failed while responding to a call about the fire. He was working with dispatchers to find the property in an area with about 75 miles of back roads.

Troopers said Shanigan was about to make a wrong turn at an intersection when his vehicle lights caught Buddy. The dog eyed the trooper and began running down a side road.

The video shows Buddy occasionally looking back at the patrol car as he raced ahead, galloping around three turns before arriving in front of the blaze, which was very close to the Heinrichs' home. What came next was not caught on the video, but troopers said Buddy jumped up and down and nudged Shanigan as he approached the workshop, then darted into the woods.

From there, the trooper guided firefighters to the scene.

The workshop was destroyed and a shed was heavily damaged, but only some window trim on the house was scorched.

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