Just like the ingenious television character who shares his name. MacGyver is no ordinary dog. As part of the Santa Barbara County’s Search & Rescue team. Australian shepherd MacGyver and his owner. Rick Stein, have helped to locate the lost and the deceased following accidents and natural disasters in some of the most tragic conditions. MacGyver is very adept with search techniques and can generally do so without a scent article. and is able to search in high altitudes and difficult terrain.

In 2018. MacGyver and Mr. Stein were honored with a special Pup Harris Fellow (aka Paul Harris Fellow) from the Santa Barbara Sunrise Rotary Club for their critical efforts during the Montecito debris flow incident. Joanne Schoenfeld, a past club president said, “MacGyver and his partner, Rick Stein, are only one of the many Santa Barbara Search and Rescue teams in our county. While I chose to honor them for their difficult work during the debris flow. they are hard at work all year long locating the missing in our area.”

MacGyver and Mr. Stein have also shared their knowledge by training other  handler/dog teams. They have spent countless hours teaching by example and their friendly and professional approach has proved invaluable to many teams.

MacGyver’s dedication to locate the missing especially under difficult circumstances as well as his training contributions under the guidance of his owner, are clear examples of how his actions exemplify the human­ animal bond.

Eight-year-old Belgian Malinos Max loves to help people. More specifically, he and his owner Martin Wendels love to help find missing people. As a search and rescue (SAR) dog, Max has participated in numerous rescues in the Central Valley including the Camp Fire in Northern California where he worked under extreme circumstances for seven days until his foot was lacerated from the debris.

Max is a trained trailing and cadaver dog. He and Martin are the only civilian search and rescue team the Fresno Police Department uses. They routinely volunteer their time to assist with numerous missing person cases.

Max and Martin are also part of Yosemite Park’s dedicated team of SAR handlers and dogs, nicknamed YODOGS. They help with not only incidents but also with the park’s preventative SAR program. In 2017 during the Thanksgiving holiday, Max successfully tracked a potentially suicidal person to the edge of a viewpoint in the area.

During a winter storm in Yosemite in February 2018, Max worked in very cold and snowy conditions to help with the search for a backpacker leading to a successful rescue.

Max has helped numerous agencies and groups find loved ones, and even under extreme conditions, he continues his efforts. He is an outstanding example of the human-animal bond and a very welcome inductee into the California Animal Hall of Fame.

Ricochet has a special gift. Not only can she surf, but she provides therapy to people with disabilities by providing connection through her sport. Although she was first slated to be a service dog for a person with a disability, she found her true calling as a SURFice© Dog, working with adaptive surfing organizations and special needs children. In addition, she has more than two years of service dog training and over eight years of experience working with individuals with disabilities. She is a registered therapy dog and is involved with the Emotional Support Dog Program.

There is no shortage of testaments from people Ricochet has helped. She has provided therapeutic assistance to returning military personnel readjusting to civilian life, including a combat veteran with PTSD and who barely spoke; she has helped children with special needs come out of their shell and be social; and she has even taught them to surf, not an easy task!

As described by her owner, Judy Fridono, “There is a strong bond between Ricochet and the people she interacts with that defies present day scientific understanding. She not only provides affection, loyalty, and security, but she knows what each individual needs and she delivers it. She balances boards AND lives!”

In 2008, when Bob Schultze first met his dog Hudson, he was unsocialized, wary/aggressive toward strangers and other dogs, and had a severe heartworm infection. Despite his issues, Bob still adopted him. With time, training, and love, Hudson thrived and passed his Canine Good Citizen test in February 2012; was certified for pet encounter therapy (PET) in 2013; and has made over 150 therapy visits to 20 facilities in San Diego County including nursing facilities, memory care units, the VA hospital, and even a school for homeless children since then.

Hudson’s temperament is very gentle and patient and he can stir reaction from even the most unresponsive clients. He is described as a star wherever he goes and that he shines the brightest with clients that can’t respond with more than a small touch. One of many examples that highlights his therapeutic capabilities was with a client in hospice that had not been responsive for more than three weeks. His family had asked Bob to help. Bob placed Hudson next to their father and Hudson laid his head on the man’s hand. Soon the man started to pet him and kept petting him for the rest of the visit. The man’s response made his family cry and they were overjoyed that he was able to find comfort with Hudson.

Another example of Hudson’s therapeutic touch involves a client that spends most of his days in a wheelchair with little movement. While the way he is positioned in the wheelchair makes it difficult for other therapy dogs to reach him, it is no problem from Hudson. Hudson will gently mold his body to the man’s in his reclining chair and will lean in to share his warmth. The man’s usually labored breathing will start to ease and his muscles relax.

Hudson’s loving nature despite having been given up and his service as a therapy dog, exemplifies the importance of the human-animal bond. After his rescue, his body and spirit were made whole and he is now giving back one PET visit at a time.

When Dr. Julie Voltin first met her dog Stella, she was the last of a litter of six puppies from a stray mother that needed a home. At 10 weeks old, Stella started going to work with Dr. Voltin and she has worked in three different animal hospitals exemplifying the human-animal bond. Today, at seven years old, therapy dog Stella roams the halls of Uptown Animal Hospital “finding different things that need to be done,” Dr. Voltin says. Stella greets people and pets as they enter the hospital, entertains owners when they’re waiting, and comforts those who receive bad news.

Stella’s unique temperament allows her to read other animals and they calm down in her presence. One example of this is described by an owner of two dachshund patients of the hospital: “Inevitably my little dogs become visibly upset and tremble with fear when we enter the lobby. Stella promptly appears, tailing wagging, full of confidence, with a warm, friendly smile on her face and greets them. Whatever goes on with dog body language communication, my dogs are calmed by her presence and by what she tells them. After whatever procedure we are there for, Stella will appear in the exam room as if to say, ‘I told you not to worry, didn’t I?”

Stella’s service as a therapy dog exemplifies the value of the human-animal bond in the very best way. Her calming temperament and her compassionate, patient, intuitive, playful, and nurturing nature makes her the perfect recipient for the Animal Hall of Fame Award.

Tara, a seven-year old cat to the Triantafilo family is known for her brave act after saving her four-year-old owner, Jeremy Triantafilo from a dog attach. While riding his bicycle outside in his front yard, Jeremy was attacked by a neighbor’s dog that had escaped from a nearby yard. Just as the dog bit down on Jeremy’s lower leg dragging from off his bicycle, his cat Tara immediately sprant into action and hurled herself at the dog. She hit the dog with her whole body and the dog immediuately released Jeremy and ran away. Tara continued to chase the dog for a while then returned to Jeremy, protecting him until the dog was subdued in his own backyard. 

Security cameras caught the incident and when the Triantafilo family saw the footage, they were stunned by how quickly Tara reacted to save Jeremy. “Tara changed our perspective of just how loyal she was to Jeremy and our family and we cannot love her enough for that”, Jeremy’s father Roger Triantafilo says.

K9 Bodie saved the life of his Sacramento Police Officer, Officer Van Dusen on May 18, 2012, taking a bullet from a suspect and allowing Officer Van Dusen to move in a safe direction and return fire. Bodie also stopped a dangerous gunman from escaping onto the grounds of an elementary school, which was in session with hundreds of children.

Bodie and Officer Van Dusen were in pursuit of a suspected car thief when the suspect shot Bodie in the jaw and paw. Van Dusen then fatally shot the suspect. Van Dusen immediately drove Bodie to VCA Animal Hospital in Rancho Cordova. Bodie nearly died on the way, losing most of the blood in his body.

The bullet shattered Bodie’s lower left jaw bone, severed his tongue 60 percent of the way off, exited his right lip and entered his right paw, shattering his two middle toes. Bodie was in the veterinary hospital for one week before being released.

Officer Van Dusen spent every day and night with Bodie, sleeping on the floor of the dog kennel. Bodie had five major surgeries to repair the damage, including one in January 2013 to remove a ruptured spinal disk that occurred as a result of the shooting. Bodie became the Sacramento Police Department’s first ever Reserve Police K9 and serves as an ambassador for police and working dogs. He educates the public about the benefits of police canines and the bond shared between and them and their human partners.

“Bodie unselfishly saved my life and I will never be able to repay him,” Officer Randy Van Dusen said.

Sophie, a terrier therapy dog, is 14-year-old former street dog from Mexico City. She was brought north by a rescue group at age three and adopted by Dr. Don Conkling and his wife, Brenda. The Conklings took Sophie to obedience and agility classes, where Sophie was very friendly and easily distracted by anyone on the sidelines with treats. One of the trainers suggested that Sophie might make a good therapy dog, and within six months, Sophie and Dr. Conkling were certified as Pet Partners.  Dr. Conkling began doing assistance dog therapy with Sophie. The pair eventually advanced to hospice animal therapy for patients that were dying. Hospice animal therapy became their favorite. Sometimes just being there with someone is Sophie’s most important job.