It wasn’t new tricks that landed 12-year-old Luca, a retired Search-and-Rescue German Shepherd, on the nationally-televised “American Humane Hero Dogs Awards” show scheduled for Oct 26.
It was his old-school training and skills that helped rescue an elderly man with Alzheimer’s from the freezing Trinity River in March 2016.
The rescue put Luca’s name in the hat for the Hallmark Channel’s annual event, in which nearly a million votes were submitted by the public and a panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts to choose finalists in several hero categories: search and rescue, law enforcement/arson, emerging hero, guide/hearing, military, service and therapy.
Luca, who is owned by Fort Worth police officer Cole Brock, emerged from the pack to win the hero award for Search and Rescue Dog.
Luca was not initially a part of the search effort when the rescue took place on March 15, 2016.
Two elderly men had visited a large salvage yard when one suddenly realized that his elderly friend with Alzheimer’s was missing. After a brief search, he realized he needed help and called police.
After an extensive search, one of the responding officers, Brock, was asked if Luca, 10 at the time, would be of any help.
The dog had excelled in area, water, avalanche and forest/desert searches. Brock also knew helping out would mean a helicopter ride for Luca, which the dog loves.
Once at the scene, Luca immediately fell back into his training. He quickly alerted officers to an opening in the brush at the Trinity River, which led to a steep hill followed by a steep drop-off. A police helicopter responded and officers immediately spotted the lost man in the river, stuck in waist-high mud on the opposite bank.
Officers shed their gear, swam across and rescued the man.
If not for Luca, officers believed the man would have drowned in the fast-moving water or succumbed to the cold temperature.
You can watch Luca being honored at this year’s American Humane Hero Dog Awards airing on the Hallmark Channel at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26.