As Buddy, a 5-year-old German Shepherd Dog, was relaxing in the workshop of his dog dad Ben Heinrichs’ Alaska home, a spark flew from the truck Heinrichs was working on, igniting some gasoline and setting his clothes on fire.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Heinrichs ran outside and closed the workshop door behind him to stop the fire from spreading to the house. As he rolled in the snow, extinguishing his burning clothes, he remembered he had left Buddy in the workshop.
Heinrichs rescued the unharmed dog. “I just told him, ‘We need to get help,’ and then that’s the last time I (saw) him,” Heinrichs told reporters. “I didn’t train him … He just took off and went and did what he did. He was just being a good dog.”
Buddy found Terrence Shanigan, a state trooper, on a nearby road. Emergency services, alerted by Heinrichs’ neighbors, had become lost on their way to the house, which is located in a remote area 55 miles north of Anchorage. Shanigan himself was about to turn down the wrong road because his global positioning device wasn’t working – but then he saw Buddy in the headlights. The dog made eye contact with him, then raced down the correct road, with Shanigan in close pursuit.
“Buddy was able to connect with me, giving me a lot of non-verbal cues, kind of loping, and wanting me to speed up at times,” Shanigan said, reports the Daily Telegraph. “And when I finally pulled in, Buddy greeted me at the driver’s side door and kind of nudged me towards the house. It was surreal.”
Although the workshop was destroyed and a shed heavily damaged, firefighters were able to save the house.
Heinrichs, who only suffered minor facial burns and second-degree burns on his left hand, said he knew Buddy was clever ever since he adopted him six weeks after his birth by a K9 officer mother. He said Buddy was also brave and had twice chased bears away from him as he was fishing.
In recognition of his heroism, on April 23 Buddy was presented with a silver-plated dog bowl engraved with praise for his “diligence and assistance,” along with a big rawhide bone.
At the ceremony, Chief Colonel Audie Holloway said, “Buddy is an untrained dog who, for some reason, recognized the severity of the situation and acted valiantly in getting help for his family.”
PHOTOS: Anchorage Daily News