Luca, a search-and-rescue dog, had been retired for more than two years when he saved a man with dementia from drowning in the Trinity River.
Officer Cole Brock of the Fort Worth Police Department bought Luca when the pup was just 8 weeks old. Soon after noticing how smart he was, Brock began training him as a search-and-rescue dog. After years of working, Luca retired when he was 10.
But he was called out of retirement to save a life. Because of this postretirement action, Luca is in the running to be the 2017 American Hero Dog. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in mid-September, Brock says.
Police got a call in early 2016 about a man with dementia who went missing after visiting a car impound lot. After a long search, Sgt. Luis Medrano of the FWPD asked Brock if Luca could help. "Knowing Luca as well as I do, I felt confident bringing him out," Brock tells the Dallas Observer.
Luca and Brock made their way to the impound lot. Brock says Luca kept pulling him toward the overflowing Trinity River, which runs parallel to the lot.
"Luca would not leave this one area alone," Brock says. "He kept insisting someone was there. It was almost like a kid in a toy store who wants a toy so badly. He just wouldn't let it go and kept driving over there."
But the search-and-rescue team couldn't see anybody. Officers used their helicopter for a final search and found a man stuck in the mud and chest-deep in water, drowning.
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"Luca deserves to win, but all the dogs there deserve the award," Brock says. "Luca did what he was trained to do. And I'm not trying to be overly humble, but he did what he wanted to do, what he was trained to do, what I asked him to do, and I have never been more proud of that dog in my life. He did everything and more, especially at his age, because he's a 70- to 80-year-old man at that point, let alone with that disease he had and going at an incredibly slow rate, and he still managed to make things work. He overcame obstacles that were unfathomable with his health."
Although it has been years since Luca had gone on any missions, Brock says he's still ready to help.
"We go on a walk and I watch his mannerisms," Brock says. "Like he's not working, but he's still doing the traits he was trained to do. His nose goes up — we call it an alert; it's when he's signaling, 'Hey, there's something there.' And he was still doing that even on basic walks."