For over ten years the American Humane Hero Dog awards have served to honor exceptional dogs from all over the country. From Sgt. Fieldy (black lab and career military dog), Deputy Chance (a tan rescue and member of Florida law enforcement), Roselle (a guide dog who led his blind owner down from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center during 9/11) and with enough votes, Meeka a service dog from San Diego will join that illustrious list.
When Teresa Perry adopted Meeka a year ago on the advice of her therapist, she didn’t realize how much the Australian cattle dog would become more than a companion to help Perry over come “life-limiting” PTSD. In fact, in the beginning it seemed like Perry would be helping Meeka overcome the trauma of an empty backyard, no love, little food, and nearly being euthanized before Perry’s adoption.
“She’s my hero,” Perry said to the La Jolla Light. “Before she came to me, she was in a really bad situation. … She overcame all of that trauma, learned not to be afraid and just live like a normal dog.”
From the start, the estimated to be four year old rescue demonstrated a high aptitude for learning basic commands and keen focus, remaining at Perry’s side through even the most squirrelly of distractions. Recognizing service dog potential, Perry began training Meeka herself by following the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.
Meeka learning to conduct deep pressure therapy by laying across Perry’s lap or chest, to associate Perry’s high heart rate with pawing at Perry’s leg allowing Meeka to alert Perry to an imminent panic attack, and to follow Perry’s husband of a friend to alert to them to help.
The plucky cattle dog even learned how to bring Perry a bottle of water. Recognizing Meeka isn’t particularly toy motivated but IS towel motivated, Perry transitioned Meeka from fetch with a dish towel, to fetch with a dish towel attached to a bottle of water, to finally retrieving just the bottle of water. Within a week.
Meeka’s success as a service dog led Perry to enter her in the Hero Dog contest which honors dogs around the country in seven categories of Law Enforcement and Detection, Service, Therapy, Military, Search and Rescue, Guide and Hearing Dogs, and Shelter dogs (the rescue dogs who beat the worst odds to getting home).
Meeka is the only Service dog selected from San Diego for the first round of voting that ends May 12th. If she moves forward, she’ll be in line to win $10,000 donated to an associated charity on her and Teresa Perry’s behalf.