Meet Gabe. He’s a noncommissioned officer (a sergeant first class), a combat veteran and a hero with some 40 awards including three Army Commendation Medals and an Army Achievement medal. He’s trained to sniff out explosives, weapons and ammunition.
He’s also a dog. But he’s not just any dog: He’s a rescue dog, a military working dog and, as of a recent awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog of the Year.
It almost never happened, however, because Gabe was a dismal failure at the Military Working Dog School at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. At first he didn’t realize he was supposed to be a military working dog, his former handler and current owner Sgt. 1st Class Charles Shuck said. “He was being a dog. … He just didn’t want to search, didn’t want to find stuff.” Gabe, who had somehow made his way to the Army after turning up in a Texas pound, didn’t even know how to sit. Shuck had quickly fallen in love with the goofy 3-year-old yellow Lab, working with him patiently for weeks, bonding with him more than the other dog he had been assigned, but he dreaded their final evaluation.