Alaska State Troopers plan to recognize a German shepherd named Buddy for what they say were his "valiant actions" guiding an officer to the scene of a fire this month.
Buddy's owner, 23-year-old Ben Heinrichs, was working on a vehicle in a shop outside the family's home in the Caswell Lakes area the night of April 4 when a spark from a heater ignited gasoline and gave Heinrichs flash burns to his face and second-degree burns to his left hand, he said.
He went outside and rolled to put out the flames. Buddy, a 5-year-old companion Heinrichs has had since a puppy, had been shut in the shop, so Heinrichs let him out of the burning structure.
"I just told him, 'We need to get help,' and then that's the last time I seen him," Heinrichs said. "I didn't train him or nothing. He just took off and went and did what he did. ... He was just being a good dog."
The sequence of events, as related by troopers, runs like an episode of "Lassie."
An officer responding to a call about the fire, trooper Terrence Shanigan, was having trouble finding the scene because his global positioning device was on the fritz, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said.
Shanigan, who almost took the long way around the neighborhood, came across Buddy on Caswell Loop Road. The dog took off, and acting on a hunch, Shanigan followed the dog down a side road, she said.
A video shot by the trooper's dashboard camera shows Buddy trotting along the side of the road coming toward the officer, then looking at the vehicle and breaking into a run as Shanigan follows. The dog runs ahead of the patrol vehicle and takes a left turn, ending up at the burning structure.
Troopers are convinced the dog was leading Shanigan to the fire, Ipsen said.
"Buddy's a pretty shy dog, and he was several blocks away just kind of hanging out. By all accounts this is not normal behavior for him," Ipsen said. "Buddy's not trained. This is something he did pretty much on his own."
The workshop, which was fully engulfed in flames, was destroyed, but Heinrichs said he thinks Buddy's actions prevented the fire from spreading to the family's home.
Troopers plan to recognize Buddy's bravery at a ceremony today. The family will get a letter and Buddy will receive a metal dog bowl engraved with the troopers' logo and Buddy's name with the words, "In appreciation of your diligence and assistance to Alaska State Troopers."
Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.