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Shana - an Exceptionally Caring and Capable Soul

By sister-initiate Debra Couch, Rochester, New York, USA (Originally in English)

The Shining World Hero Award has been awarded to Shana, a 160 pound dog who is half wolf, for her amazing rescue of her human caretakers during a life-threatening ice storm.

Shana's story starts when she was only 2 ½ weeks old. Mr. and Mrs. Fertig rescued Shana from people who intended to use her for dog fights when she was older. The Fertigs took her home to their Enchanted Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in upstate New York and lovingly raised her. Shana proved herself to be a warm and loving soul, following the Fertigs around all day long like a little lamb.

Last October the Fertigs were caring for the injured birds at their Sanctuary when an ice storm unexpectedly arrived. When they tried to return to their house, trees were falling all around them and they became trapped in a small alley between the Sanctuary buildings. The Fertigs, both 82 years old, were unable to climb over the trees or move the large branches. The temperatures were freezing, and, not being warmly dressed, they began to worry that they would die of exposure.

Shana realized how dangerous the situation was and began digging through the dirt, branches, snow, and ice. It took her hours to dig her way to the back porch of the house. She then barked at the Fertigs, trying to get them to crawl through the tunnel. Mr. Fertig refused to get in the tunnel, saying he had enough of foxholes when he was in Okinawa during WWII. Mrs. Fertig finally threatened divorce if he didn't get in! Shana grew tired of waiting for them to act, so she crawled back to them and pulled Mrs. Fertig onto her back. Mr. Fertig grabbed on to his wife's ankles, and Shana slowly pulled them through the tunnel until they finally emerged at the house.

It was after 2 am when they were finally home again, but the heat and power was out because of the storm. Shana kept them both warm with her own body heat. Firemen arrived in the morning, having been called by concerned neighbors who hadn't heard from the Fertigs. The firemen wanted the Fertigs to come to the firehouse where there was food and heat. Since there were already people taking shelter at the firehouse, Shana would not be able to come along. The Fertigs refused to leave her, so Shana kept them warm for the whole weekend. The firemen provided food for them, and then brought Shana and the Fertigs to the firehouse after it had emptied out, thus ending their ordeal.

Initiates from Toronto, Canada, and Rochester, NY traveled to Alden, NY to the Enchanted Forest Animal Sanctuary to present Shana with her Shining World Hero Award plaque and two custom made "Hero" jackets designed by Supreme Master Ching Hai. They also brought US$2,000 from Master for Shana's expenses and an assortment of vegetarian dog food, treats, and vegetarian "bones."

The initiates found that Shana is quite big, and would be a very intimidating dog to meet if she were not so peaceful and loving in her demeanor! She was outside when the initiates arrived and she scratched at the door to be let in to greet them. With her tail wagging furiously, she greeted them one by one with kisses and licks.

When Shana was presented with her jackets, it was impossible to put her feet through the openings to put the jackets on properly. Sadly, her feet are still injured from all the digging during her rescue of the Fertigs five months ago. It was touching to see how the dog sacrificed herself in order to dig through the snow and dirt to save the couple.

The initiates also discovered that Shana had recently proved herself to be a hero again -- twice! Just a week before their visit, the smoke alarm had gone off in the middle of the night at the Fertigs home. They couldn't find anything wrong and couldn't smell smoke, so they went back to bed. Shana barked and barked, trying to get their attention. Thinking that she just wanted to go outside, Mrs. Fertig told her to quiet down and wait until morning. Finally, Shana actually pulled Mrs. Fertig out of bed and tried to drag her outside.

The Fertigs realized that Shana wouldn't be ignored and decided that they should call the fire department. The firemen arrived, discovering that the furnace was on fire. The Fire Chief said that the furnace would have exploded within 10 minutes. The Fertigs were grateful that Shana was so diligent and relentless in her efforts to warn them.

Only a month before that, some people taking classes at the Sanctuary brought a dog and her puppy with them and left them in their car. They called the Fertigs in the middle of the night, saying their puppy was lost. They thought the small, black pup might have slipped out of the car at the Sanctuary without anyone noticing. While Mrs. Fertig berated them for endangering the puppy by leaving him in the car in the middle of the ice cold winter, Shana began barking at the door. When the Fertigs let her out, she ran straight for a small creek in the back of the property. The pup was in the freezing cold stream. Shana picked him up by his head and brought him right back to the house. Mr. and Mrs. Fertig dried him and warmed him until he recovered. They said they never would have found the dog by themselves in the middle of the night.

This special dog has shown herself to be an exceptionally caring and capable soul who truly deserves the title "hero." It was with great honor that the initiates presented Shana with her "Shining World Hero Award."