To Charles Shuck and anyone who knew him, Gabe was more than “man’s best friend.” He was a true hero. Gabe, who passed away in February 2013 at the age of 10, served for three years as a specialized search dog in the U.S. Army, completing 210 combat missions with 26 finds of explosives and weapons during his tours in Iraq. And he did it all with Shuck by his side. In 2009, after retiring from military life, Shuck knew that there was another mission for Gabe — one that he could do while living comfortably at home. Gabe was already regarded as a hero. Throughout his career, he saved the lives of countless soldiers and citizens, earned more than 40 military awards and coins of excellence, and was also named the 2008 American Kennel Club Heroic Military Working Dog and the 2012 American Humane Association Hero Dog. But Gabe’s final mission would be personal: to save civilian animals from a life of loneliness in a shelter. Gabe to the Rescue was born.
Gabe’s whole life was a story of resilience. He was living on the streets of Houston, with no home and no family, when he was picked up and taken to the shelter. As is the policy of many shelters across the country, Gabe would have been euthanized if he wasn’t picked up by the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue. The volunteers there saw something special in him, and sent Gabe to bootcamp with the Army, where he was paired with Shuck at the Department of Defense Dog School at Lackland Airbase in Texas. The pair connected immediately. But there was still another hurdle to overcome before Gabe could start his career as a military dog. He had to beat out another dog — Doki the German Shepherd — for the job. While Doki was highly skilled in sniffing out explosives, Gabe received a perfect score on the certification, and was cleared for duty. One year after he was rescued in the shelter, Gabe was on his way to Mosul, Iraq, with Shuck by his side.
Even though Gabe passed away from cancer last year, Shuck has kept his legacy alive by supporting the United States War Dog Association, which sends care packages and assistance to dog teams deployed overseas, and saving shelter dogs from euthanasia by helping them find permanent homes. Through his Gabe to the Rescue page on Facebook, Shuck shares photos of dogs in need of rescue from shelters across the country, and asks “Gabe Nation,” a community of more than 100,000, to push these images to their networks, in order to save as many dogs from shelters as possible. The Gabe to the Rescue page is full of uplifting tails (pun intended) of dogs that were rescued thanks to Shuck, Gabe Nation, and Gabe himself, whose heroism lives on through each dog Shuck helps.