The 25 most heroic dogs in America
Updated: May 30, 2019
Grant Suneson and John Harrington, 24/7 Wall Street Published 9:21 p.m. ET July 5, 2018 | Updated 7:24 p.m. ET July 11, 2018
We love dogs for a host of reasons. They’re fun, frisky, loyal, funny, affectionate, compassionate and comforting. They’re also brave, a noble characteristic people have known about for thousands of years.
There is evidence that dogs have been comrades of soldiers for several millennia, fighting alongside their two-legged warriors, standing guard, and carrying messages.
The American Humane Association, which claims to be America’s first national humane organization, recognizes canine courage on the battlefield and in our hometowns by honoring hero dogs.
Every year, American Humane holds a nationwide vote that recognizes America’s hero dogs in these categories: law enforcement/arson, service, therapy, military, search and rescue, guide/hearing and emerging hero (for “ordinary” dogs who do extraordinary things).
Many of the dogs have been honored for their work in search and rescue missions following hurricanes, mudslides and earthquakes, or for helping and protecting soldiers in war-torn places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is worth noting that these dogs are following in the footsteps of canine heroes such as Sergeant Stubby, Smoky and Roselle. During World War I, Sergeant Stubby comforted wounded soldiers and sniffed out deadly gas. Smoky gained fame during World War II by dragging a telegraph wire through a 70-foot pipe that was crucial to the Allies’ reconnaissance efforts against the Japanese. Roselle guided a vision-impaired man down 78 floors of Tower One of the World Trade Center during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
To determine the most heroic dogs in America, 24/7 Wall Street reviewed those canines that won or were nominated for the award for heroic deeds performed between 2011 and 2018, which is presented annually by American Humane. The Washington-based organization was founded in 1877 to ensure the safety and well-being of animals. Each year, American Humane recognizes dogs that have performed brave deeds in seven categories.
To be considered for this. list, a dog had to have performed a heroic act. 24/7 Wall Street did not want to quantify heroic deeds of dogs — who are all subjects of hundreds of engaging stories — so we compiled our list based on the most compelling stories about these animals.
> For acts of heroism: On Jan. 14, 2008
Adak, a German shepherd, served with the U.S. Department of State and with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years, sniffing out explosives. On Jan. 14, 2008, Adak worked during an active terrorist attack on a Kabul hotel, helping Americans evacuate victims and find terrorists.
> For acts of heroism: From 2016-2018
Bella is a law enforcement/arson dog who works in Fort Bend County, Texas, southeast of Houston. Bella's specialty is accelerant detection, and she has put that skill to good use. At the site of a residential fire where a body was found, Bella alerted investigators to the presence of fuel in a master bedroom. A laboratory confirmed evidence of gasoline, helping detectives get a confession from a suspect for arson and murder.
> For acts of heroism: From 2001-2008
Bretagne has had a long and distinguished career as a search and rescue dog. Bretagne has been deployed at the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks; the Winter Olympic Games; and the aftermath of Hurricane Rita in 2005. Bretagne retired in 2008.
> For acts of heroism: On March 20, 2014
Bruno was part of a K-9 unit for the Anaheim, California, Police Department on March 20, 2014, when he was shot in the face by an armed suspect before the suspect was shot and killed by Bruno's handler. Police believe the suspect would have shot Bruno's handler had the K-9 not taken the bullet. Bruno died two years later because of complications from the gunshot wound.
> For acts of heroism: From 2017-2018
Charlie is a Labrador retriever who helps American service men and women recover from injuries. Located in Goose Creek, South Carolina, Charlie performs many tasks such as helping service members returning from war zones with their balance; retrieving items; and providing hearing impairment support. Charlie's human partner considers him her "armor" and credits him with helping her overcome devastating injuries suffered in combat.
6. Chi Chi
> For acts of heroism: From 2016-2018
Therapy dog Chi Chi is the poster dog for survivors. The golden retriever was found in a garbage bag in South Korea with her legs bound and worn to the bone. Chi Chi had to have parts of all four legs amputated, but was able to adapt to her custom prosthetics. She also has had surgery to remove cancer tumors, making her a cancer survivor as well.
> For acts of heroism: From October 2013-March 2014
Chopper, a Labrador retriever, was deployed to Afghanistan from October 2013 to March 2014 with the Marines to detect improvised explosive devices. While serving there, one of the escort vehicles bearing Chopper was struck by a blast and the dog suffered head injuries. He recovered and is working to detect explosives at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
> For acts of heroism: From September 2017-January 2018
Diva, a Belgian Malinois, is a search and rescue dog with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Diva searched for people who might have been swept away during the mudslides in Montecito, California, in January, and was also in Mexico City to find survivors from a 7.1-level earthquake last year.
> For acts of heroism: On Jan. 1, 2016
On New Year's Day in 2016, Los Angeles Police Department pursued two murder suspects when they broke into a home occupied by a father and three children. K-9 Edo entered the house after gunshots were heard. The K-9 confronted one of the suspects who fatally shot himself in the head. Officers later found out the suspect had shot the two children, but was interrupted by Edo. Both children survived.
> For acts of heroism: From 2006-2009
Military dog Gabe was deployed in Iraq and was involved in more than 210 combat assignments and 26 discoveries of explosives and weapons. In addition to performing those dangerous missions, Gabe visited wounded troops in Army hospitals and school children in elementary schools.
> For acts of heroism: In 2013
Hook is part Chihuahua, part Jack Russell terrier and all hero. The dog probably saved the life of Joyce Herman, a hearing-impaired family therapist living in California. Herman was crossing a street in downtown Sacramento and approached railroad tracks when Hook pulled her away from the tracks — and a train just missed her.
> For acts of heroism: On July 21, 2016
While helping bust a marijuana garden in California's Shasta-Trinity National Forest on July 21, 2016, Ice, a German shepherd, sustained several serious injuries. The dog was stabbed in the face and chest by a suspect. Ice was airlifted to an animal hospital and underwent surgery. He has since made a full recovery and rejoined the police.
> For acts of heroism: From 2011-2018
Judge, a Labrador retriever, gets credit for helping to reduce arson incidents in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Judge has worked more than 275 fire scenes and found evidence that led to arrests and civil penalties for insurance fraud cases. Officials claim the number of arson fires has declined by almost 53% since Judge has been working for the city.
> For acts of heroism: On July 9, 2014
First responders had to race against time to save an elderly woman lost in the Maine woods. Kobuk, a search and rescue German shepherd, led rescuers to Ruth Brennan, a 77-year-old woman with diabetes and dementia who was lost for two nights without food, water or her medications.
> For acts of heroism: On Jan. 3, 2014
Kota is a police dog in Virginia who is relentless in fulfilling his duty. Kota was hurt falling through the ceiling of a home in pursuit of home-invasion suspects. Still, the German shepherd helped in completing the arrest. Kota required surgery and underwent physical therapy.
> For acts of heroism: In June 2012
Belgian Malinois Layka was with U.S. troops when they assaulted an enemy position in Afghanistan in June 2012. It would be her last mission. Layka tracked down an enemy combatant inside a building and was shot four times. She lost her right leg and underwent surgery to repair her shoulder and tricep. Layka received military honors and was medically retired in August 2012.
> For acts of heroism: On April 15, 2016
Luca, a German shepherd, was a retired search and rescue dog in 2016. Then came a call to the Fort Worth Police that an elderly man with Alzheimer's disease had gone missing. Luca was brought out of retirement to search for him. Luca alerted rescuers to an opening of brush near a river, and the rescuers spotted the man stuck in mud up to his waist on the opposite side of the river. First responders reached the man before the fast-moving river overwhelmed him.
> For acts of heroism: From 2008-2018
Nitro is from Slovakia, but his turf is in middle America, serving with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Bomb Squad. Nitro, a German shepherd, has been serving the Sooner State for more than 10 years. Nitro has participated in about 1,000 searches for explosives, from bomb threats to presidential protection.
> For acts of heroism: On Nov. 23, 2017
Odin, a German shepherd, played a key role in capturing the murder suspect of a Texas state trooper who was killed while directing holiday traffic on Thanksgiving. Odin and his partner, who is a deputy in the Waller County Sheriff's Office, tracked down the suspect in a wooded area. Odin captured the suspect, preventing officers from being put at risk.
> For acts of heroism: In October 2017
A teenage boy from Gloucester, Rhode Island, went missing. After human search efforts failed to find the teen after 36 hours, the Gloucester police requested Ruby, an Australian shepherd/border collie, be brought in. Ruby found the teen. Coincidentally, the boy's mother had worked with Ruby years earlier while volunteering with the Rhode Island Society for Protection of Animals.
21. Sgt. Fieldy
> For acts of heroism: From 2011-2014
Labrador retriever Sgt. Fieldy was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 to track down improvised explosive devices. Sgt. Fieldy found many explosives, including a 60-pound plastic barrel containing homemade explosives. The canine is credited with saving many lives while stationed in Afghanistan. Sgt. Fieldy retired in 2014.
22. Sgt. Taker
> For acts of heroism: In 2012
Sgt. Taker is a bomb-detection dog who saved many soldiers' lives during tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Sgt. Taker struggled with the stress of his experiences as well as with injuries. He retired from duty in 2012 and became a therapy dog.
> For acts of heroism: From 2017-2018
Stella, a disaster search dog, is a tenacious Labrador retriever. Despite the removal of her lower right jaw because of a tumor, Stella was deployed to help in the search for survivors after Hurricane Irma and in the mudslides in Montecito, California.
24. Suma L469
> For acts of heroism: From 2005-2014
Suma L469 is a retired military dog who served for nine years with the Air Force in Afghanistan. Suma L469 searched for improvised explosive devices and was credited with saving up to 200 military and civilian lives.
> For acts of heroism: From 2012-2018
Summer, a Labrador retriever, was stationed with the Marines in Afghanistan in March 2012. She found caches of weapons and improvised explosive devices and was involved in several fire fights. Summer works with a K-9 unit of the Amtrak Police Department in Washington, performing security sweeps and protection for VIPs and foreign dignitaries, such as when Pope Francis visited America in 2015.