“Hero dog” dies after battle with cancer

Ben Heinrichs and “Buddy” in 2010. (Photo by Diana Haecker)
Ben Heinrichs and “Buddy” in 2010. (Photo by Diana Haecker)

Buddy, the “hero dog” that led an Alaska State Trooper to a structure fire in the spring of 2010 has died after a battle with cancer.

Ben Heinrichs, Buddy’s owner, describes the fire that led to his German Shepard becoming a national celebrity.

“I was out working in the shop. I was using gas to clean parts on a truck, and I had an electric heater in there. It ignited the gas fumes. I ran out, because I was on fire. I had to roll in the snow, and I went back in and got my dog out. I told him we needed to get help, and that’s when it all started.”

Buddy took getting help seriously.

According to media accounts from 2010, Trooper Terrence Shanigan was on his way to the Heinrichs residence in Caswell Lakes when his GPS froze.

Unable to find the house, Shanigan was at an intersection when he saw Buddy through the window of his patrol vehicle. This is Trooper Shanigan describing the situation in 2010.

“Buddy eventually greeted me at the intersection of a road, and I saw him walk toward me with a casual type of a gait, look at me, then start running. I just decided to follow at that point.”

Dashboard camera footage shows Buddy leading Trooper Shanigan directly to the fire.

While the shed was a total loss, and Ben Heinrichs suffered burns to his face and hand, the house was saved, and no one else was injured. Buddy became an overnight national celebrity.

Heinrichs and Buddy spoke to multiple schools about fire safety over the next year.

Ben Heinrichs made the difficult decision to put Buddy down last month after battling liver cancer. He remembers his friend fondly and will miss him. “He was a good dog.”

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