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Three woofs for these canine heroes

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2003

WASHINGTON Heroes comes in all shapes and sizes and breeds, too.

Popeye the bassett hound's sad face brings laughter to children and adults at hospitals and schools in Puerto Rico. Arthos, a solid-looking Beauceron search-and-rescue dog from Germany, helped save the life of a suicidal 12-year-old girl by leading police to the distressed child.

They joined five other dogs from around the world at a tribute ceremony organized by ''Paws to Recognize,'' a program that celebrates service dogs. Solid bronze medals were placed around their necks.

The pooches also pressed their paw prints in cement for a Hollywood-style ''Canine Heroes Walk of Fame.''

The four-legged heroes stood at the side of their handlers, who offered comforting words and pats when the canines bowed to the dog days of Washington's August heat and plopped their fur-covered bodies to the ground.

The canines' heroic efforts were applauded by Robert C. Bonner, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection at the Homeland Security Department, which has 1,200 detector dogs.

''They are invaluable,'' he said.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bonner said bureau dogs used to detect drugs and explosives were also trained to search for chemical weapons, such as sarin gas.

The award for top dog in the United States went to a yellow Labrador retriever named Crazy Joe, an 80-pound narcotic detector for Customs and Border Protection who was adopted from an animal shelter. He's assigned to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

In his six-year career, Crazy Joe has uncovered more than $10 million worth of cocaine, heroin and other narcotics. His handler, Cindy Grob, said his biggest seizure was 60 pounds of cocaine stashed in a suitcase.

The initial reward, Grob said, for a job well done is the rolled-up towel. ''We really go crazy, jumping around, and hooting and hollering, playing tug of war he loves it.''

For a really big bust, she said, Crazy Joe is treated to ''a nice big steak.''

In an Internet vote of Americans for the program, he beat out five other finalists including a black lab named Jake, who was part of team from Utah that searched for victims in the World Trade Center rubble.

The Paws to Recognize program was created by Pedigree Food for Dogs in partnership with Wal-Mart.

Also honored were:

Buhn-gye, a German shepherd, a pioneer for helping ease initial doubts in South Korea about using canines in search and rescue missions.

Gem, a golden retriever from Brazil who was praised as Rio de Janeiro's first guide dog.

Gemma, a Border collie from Britain, who has helped fire and rescue teams and traveled abroad to major earthquakes in Turkey and Algeria.

Yuma, from Mexico, a golden retriever who works with police and rescue workers to find victims of car crashes, drownings and other tragedies.

On the Net:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: http://www.cbp.gov

The Humane Society of the United States: http://www.hsus.org



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