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Shining World Hero Award: Jake and Saphira - Models of Dedication and Heroism    
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Everywhere in the world, we can observe and be touched by acts of kindness. People from all walks of life, faiths, and cultures extend themselves beyond the call of duty to help others unconditionally. Through their noble deeds, humanity as a whole is elevated.

To commend virtuous actions and encourage more people to be inspired by their examples, Supreme Master Ching Hai has lovingly created a series of awards, including the Shining World Leadership Award, Shining World Compassion Award, Shining World Hero and Heroine Awards, Shining World Honesty Award, Shining World Protection Award, Shining World Intelligence Award, and Shining World Inventor Award, to recognize some of the most exemplary, generous, caring, and courageous people who walk amongst us.

September 11, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the tragic collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York, USA. Within days of the disaster, over 400 search-and-rescue dogs and their human partners arrived from around the world to search for missing persons amid the rubble and debris. One of these dedicated canines was a beautiful black Labrador Retriever named Jake. Mary Flood, a manager at a federal search and rescue team called Utah Task Force 1 was this brave dog’s caregiver. When Mary Flood first met Jake, he had been abandoned on the street and was seriously hurt.

I got Jake in 1996 when he was about a year old. When I took him to the vet, they said he’d already had a broken leg and now he had a broken leg and a dislocated hip. And I was facing a big medical bill, but we decided, “Yes, we’ll do this.”

Ms. Flood had no intentions of training Jake for search-and-rescue work as he was injured, and she already had a dog companion trained in this field. But Jake had other plans. And then I lost my search dog, and Jake put his paw up for the job.

And everybody said, "He can’t do that, he’s a cripple." And he went, "Well, that may be so but I’m still able to do it." And he really outworked almost any other dog you’d see. At the end of the day, the other dogs would be, "Alright, I’m ready to sleep," and he’s like, "Can you just throw the ball a few more times?" So that was Jake. He taught me more than I ever taught him. And that’s a cool dog.

The intensive search-and-rescue training was often challenging for Jake.

It was harder for him maybe than others. Part of the test is you have to climb ladders. And Jake had a leg that was about two inches shorter than the other leg. So when he climbed a ladder, he’d be stretching the short leg to reach the rungs. And it was a little hard for people to watch this dog climbing a ladder going like ‘this’ with their foot to reach the rung. But he did it. And we worked very hard on ladders so that he could climb up and down the steepest ladder and ladders on corners and everything else.

Jake was so dedicated to his work that he would often forsake his own comfort and safety to help others. Ms. Flood recalls one such incident while on a search-and-rescue mission in New Orleans, USA just after Hurricane Katrina.

At Katrina, I sent him over a refrigerator. And I thought I’d cleared below and then I heard breaking glass. So he had glass in his foot and he hobbled to our doctors. And our doctors pulled out the glass and sewed up his foot, no anesthesia, no muzzle. And then he was off-duty for a little while, and when I got back he was begging for food from everybody. And as soon as he saw me, he went, "I’m ready to work! No problem here." But that was Jake. He really was a tough guy. He’s been through a lot of pain and he used it to keep himself going.

Through his dedication to assisting others, Jake was an exemplary search and rescue dog.

It’s really quite an honor to be associated with a dog who made such an impact...in the world. He really was someone who helped us during difficult times at World Trade (Center). He’d see somebody that needed a hand and he’d sort of stuff his nose in their lap. And he was a good therapy dog, but he was also really a tireless search dog. It could be in the snow, it could be in the heat, it could be in disasters. He was always there, always ready to work.

In recognition of his devotion to helping others, Supreme Master Ching Hai honored Jake with a posthumous Shining World Hero Award. On her behalf, our Association members presented a framed Award letter, a number of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s DVDs and books, including the #1 international best-sellers “The Birds In My Life” and “The Noble Wilds,” and a beautiful crystal Award plaque to Mary Flood. Supreme Master Ching Hai also provided US$500 to purchase veg snacks for Jake’s successor, a canine called Bebe.

For Jake, search and rescue dog, in recognition of a lifetime of noble service and devotion to duty, and risking his own safety in tirelessly searching for survivors in the unstable aftermath of 9/11.

I know he would so appreciate all of this. And on behalf of Jake, I thank you all for this wonderful award.

It’s just such an incredible honor to see that what he brought to the world lives on and people remember him. You know if I could do as well as he did then I’d be very proud of myself. I don’t know if I’ll ever live up to Jake.

And thank you to Supreme Master Ching Hai for this generous award to Jake and in his memory, and for recognizing all of the wonderful things that we do for our fellow humans.

Next we’ll learn about the heroic efforts of Saphira, a beautiful Siberian husky puppy, who saved the lives of three adults, three children, two dogs and two cats. Her caregiver, Christopher Blake, describes what Saphira was like.

She loved to play. She liked to play and run. And she played with the cats that we had, with the kids; she liked to go places with us; she loved to be in the car, traveling to the schools to pick up the kids and everything. She was really, really pretty awesome.

One morning at 5:00 AM, while Mr. and Mrs. Blake and their three children were fast asleep, a fire suddenly broke out in their two-storey duplex. Saphira immediately sensed the danger that her beloved family faced and began barking loudly, with all her might, eventually waking Mr. Blake.

The first thing I thought about was “What’s going on?” And I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. It was hot. And I had to wake my wife up so we could get the kids all into one room. And then when we realized we couldn’t get downstairs, we had to climb out the window and get out of the house as quickly as possible.

We got all the kids together in my son Brett’s room. And we took the air conditioner out of the window, climbed out of the window onto the front-porch awning. And then I had to jump down. And then my wife handed me the kids. And then I helped my wife down.

Chris Blake then alerted his neighbor in the duplex, Caitlin Wells, who also escaped safely along with her two dog and two cat companions. But by this time the fire was too far advanced for Mr. Blake to re-enter the building, and sadly, the Blake’s two family cat companions and Saphira perished in the flames.

Saphira was not with you for very long. Do you think there might have been a reason that she came into your life at the time she did?

When I think about it, yes, I think that she was put there for us, to be there when we needed her. And she was. She saved our lives.

You hear the stories, you see it on TV, like “Lassie.”

That dog saved people. And Saphira was our Lassie. She woke me up, and we were told there was no way we should have woken up because of all the smoke. But I heard her barking; she woke me up.

With tearful prayers, Supreme Master Ching Hai honored Saphira for her absolute loyalty and life-saving act with a posthumous Shining World Hero Award, along with US$1,000 toward the purchase of toys for the Blake family's children. Our Association members presented the prestigious Award plaque to Mr. Blake and a selection of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s DVDs and books including “The Birds In My Life” and “The Noble Wilds.”

The following is a reading of the letter that accompanied the Award.

Dear Blake family, It was with much sadness that I heard about the passing away of your beloved family protector, Saphira, the Siberian husky. In her honor, we would like to present you with the “Shining World Hero Award”. This award is presented in recognition of her selfless and loving sacrifice for the good of the family, her unquestionable loyalty, and for her shining example of God’s blessed gift to human kind, the animals.

Three adults, three small children, two dogs and two cats were all saved by faithful Saphira during an early morning fire, which broke out in a two-story duplex. Always vigilant, her keen senses knew something was wrong, so she barked incessantly wanting to warn all of the impending danger. She woke Chris, who immediately smelled smoke, enabling him to rescue family members. Fire had already engulfed the first floor making it impossible to go out of the front door, so the family was forced to flee out the bedroom window onto an awning. Chris then alerted adjoining neighbor who in turns saved their pets.

Regretfully, the fire was too far advanced to re-enter, so the family cats Saphira were lost in the inferno. Her heroic act of saving you all has touched our hearts to tears, and surely has moved countless others reading of her love, so I can fully understand the deep sorrow and loss felt. A family member has been lost, yet she has returned the love you shared with her in the highest form she could. May our animal friends be ever regarded as priceless gifts of love in our lives.

On behalf of our entire Association, please convey our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy to all your family. May God bless and protect you and provide you with the comfort needed during your mourning for your much beloved Saphira. With Great Honor, Love and Blessings, Supreme Master Ching Hai

Christopher Blake accepted the Award on behalf of Saphira.

I appreciate it very much. I like the Award, it’s beautiful. It’s a great treasure in her honor since she did give up her life for us. It’s nice to have something to show for it, and besides our lives. And it’s got her picture on it, so we can see her every day.

Mr. Blake also has a personal message for Supreme Master Ching Hai.

Thank you very much. I appreciate everything; the awards, the letters, the books, it’s all very, very nice. Thank you.

May Heaven bless the courageous, heroic dogs, Jake and Saphira for their selfless service to others. They are a reminder of the noble qualities inherent in all animals. We’re sincerely thankful that they graced our Earth with their presence, and may their souls rest in peace. Blessed viewers, thank you for joining us for this edition of the Shining World Award series. May we all be heroes and protect all animal life every day.
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