Stuck in the mud and desperate for help, an elderly man was saved by a very unlikely hero – a huge German Shepard named Luca.
It was a hot summer day in the year 2016 when two elderly men decided to visit a large salvage yard in Texas to look for car parts. After a little bit of time, one of the men realized his friend, who suffered from dementia, had disappeared. After a brief search himself with no luck, he became worried and called in the police. Soon, dozens of officers and helicopters were roaming the area seeking the missing man. They feared he had gotten confused and wandered off, and given the hot Texas temperatures, he could be at risk of heat stroke. After an extensive search to no avail, the police knew they needed Luca’s skills and expertise.
Although Luca was already retired at the time, his reputation as an amazing Search and Rescue dog was unmatched, and his handler, Cole, was confident Luca was up to the task.
Luca fell back into his training easily while roaming the salvage yard. As they came across an opening of brush leading to a very steep drop off down to the Trinity River, Luca made a distinctive alert. Although Cole couldn’t see anything, Luca made it clear that this was where they had to go. Due to the rough terrain, the helicopter responded and immediately observed the lost man knee-deep in the river, on the opposite bank of where Luca alerted. The man was stuck in the mud and the high, fast-paced water threatened to push him down. Officers shed their gear, swam across the river and brought him to safety. It was because of Luca that the man was found some seven hours after he disappeared, saving his life.
Luca was an incredible search and rescue dog for many years before he retired. He excelled in area, water, avalanche and forest/desert searches. He went on hikes in the mountains, rode ski lifts and snow mobiles through the winter weather, and flew to deserts on helicopters to carry out his lifesaving work. All the traveling and long days began to take their toll on the big dog, which is why Cole retired Luca when he was nine years old. It was time for Luca to relax and enjoy a quiet life. Nonetheless, he was the only one still trusted to find the missing endangered male, even five years into his retirement.
Luca proved that he will forever be a hero. His love and dedication to Search and Rescue portrays the resilience of older dogs, and their amazing intelligence. Luca was honored as the Search and Rescue Hero Dog of the Year in the 2017 Hero Dog Awards.
The search is underway for this year’s winners! Vote for the 2020 American Hero Dog at www.herodogawards.org.