Meet the 2015 Hero Dogs: Part 3

Robin Ganzert on Pet Life Radio

For the penultimate episode chronicling the tales of the 2015 Hero Dog Awards finalists, we first chat with veteran Jason Haag, whose Service Dog of the Year Axel helps him combat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Then Kris Church-DiCiccio calls in to talk about Chara, the Guide/Hearing Dog of the Year. But Chara does more than just help Kris every day – she’s watching over the whole family as you will soon find out.


Jason Haag and Axel

Five years ago, now-retired Marines Captain Jason Haag was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury after returning from two combat tours in the Middle East. When he finally made it home, he was in a constant state of severe depression and mental agony. In 2012, his wife urged him to reach out to K9s for Warriors, an organization that provides veterans with service canines, which is how he met who he calls his “lifesaver,” a German shepherd named Axel. Day in and day out, Axel is by his side, ensuring that he is in a constant state of peace and not fear. Axel is Jason’s “big, furry security blanket.” (Charity Partner: Dogs on Deployment)

Kris Church-DiCiccio and Chara

Chara was originally trained as a signal service dog. However, due to a work accident in 2008, her handler Kris Church-DiCiccio developed a neurological condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy type II with Dystonia. Thanks to the bond between handler and dog, Chara has trained herself to depict impending myoclonic dystonic attacks. This newfound “alerting” skill was formed not just with her handler. Two weeks after her handler gave birth to her son, he developed a severe cold. Unknown to his mom (who is also hearing impaired), he stopped breathing. Chara alerted her that something was terribly wrong and if it was not for her quick response and love for her newest pack member, the boy would have succumbed to a condition known as SIDS. (Charity Partner: Guide Dog Users Inc.)