This year’s award recipient in the Hero Category is Nikia, owned by Sharon Gratton of Arlington, VT. Nikia was a 13 year old German Shepard cross and was nominated by his VVMA member veterinarian Dr. Peter Geannelis.
Nikia, trained as a Search and Rescue dog, did not save just one life. In fact, his record shows he found 9 missing persons, 2 missing dogs, 1 missing cat and 6 missing cows. He was registered for search and rescue duty at many police departments throughout Southern Vermont and Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Although we can’t tell all of his rescue stories, we would like to share some of them with you tonight.
Nikia was instrumental in finding a small diabetic child who had wandered away from her family during a game of Hide & Seek. Diabetic patients need food and insulin at regular intervals and this child was overdue for her injection. After a long search of the area, Nikia found the child in an old refrigerator; fortunately the door had remained open. She was unconscious and would probably have died if Nikia had not found her in the nick of time.
On another occasion, a small child wandered away from her family while they were at a campground. Nikia searched for one half hour, following the child’s scent out of the campground, across the road and down to a lake shore where the family had picnicked earlier in the day. By the time Nikia found the child, the outdoor temperature had dropped to 20 degrees.
In one of Nikia’s searches the person was found deceased. Nikia was devastated and went into a severe depression resulting in her inability to work. The Massachusetts State Police intervened and volunteered to set up a mock search. They guided Nikia through the search, allowing her to rescue a person, alive. Nikia bounced back and proceeded to participate in many successful search and rescues after that event.
One cold winter night, he also saved his owner’s family. Their furnace was on fire and the house was filling with thick black smoke. Nikia woke the family by barking, allowing them all to escape unharmed.
Nikia did not have an easy life. He survived Parvovirus as a pup, suffered from severe hip dysplasia for most of his years, and had a personality that was somewhat cautious of strangers. These events, however, influenced Sharon, who now works at a local veterinary hospital as a technician and also is a dog trainer at Second Chance Animal Shelter in Shaftsbury, VT.
Unfortunately, Nikia is no longer with us. But in the words of his veterinarian, “his intuition, his amazing abilities and his uncanny way to overcome severe health issues made him a very special dog”.
Today is Sharon’s birthday. The VVMA is hoping that Nikia’s induction, although posthumous, into the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame as a Hero is helping to make it a wonderful day to remember.