MARANA, ARIZ. — There is a hero on West Eunice Street just outside this suburb of Tucson: a two-year-old female English Springer Spaniel named Brandy.
She is credited by law-enforcement officials with attacking and chasing off an intruder last year at the home of her owners, Jerry and Kendal Plank, despite having been shot five times by a 9-mm semiautomatic machine gun.
For her heroics, Brandy recently was honored by the makers of Ken-L Ration dog food as its dog hero of the year.
Mrs. Plank, who was also wounded in the attack, says she owes her life to her canine companion. "If it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't be here today. She is my guardian angel," she says.
Brandy's heroism prompted an outpouring of generosity among neighbors and friends in this community. Family and well-wishers helped patch and clean up their damaged home in the assailant's wake And friends in a professional sorority looked after Mrs. Plank on nights when her husband was at work and she did not feel comfortable being alone in the house.
It is but one example of the difference that dogs make in the lives of their human owners.
Consider another dog - Dusty, a two-year-old bichon fris from Ely, Minn. Dusty was in a car driven by owner Joel Ward when it ran off a rain-soaked dirt road and tumbled into a forest. Even though he had been thrown from the car, Dusty made his way back to the road and jumped up and down in the middle of the road until a passing motorist called for help. Dusty then went back and stood guard over Mr. Ward until rescuers came.
But despite heroic efforts from many dogs across the country, Brandy was awarded top honors. She is the 43rd recipient of the award, which is given annually by Heinz Pet Products, makers of the dog food, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Ken-L Ration spokesman Tom O'Brien says of Brandy, "We found it to be a wonderful story of bravery, and it showed the love between the dog and its owner."
Brandy is an affectionate, mild-mannered dog who nuzzled up to a first-time visitor for a friendly scratch on the head one recent Saturday morning.
But she is also tenacious, and displayed that tenacity in the early hours of April 20, 1996, when she was just a mischievous nine-month-old puppy.
Mr. Plank had left for work on the midnight shift at the nearby Asarco Co. mine, where he is a shovel operator. Mrs. Plank went to sleep, only to be awakened a few hours later by the sound of an intruder's footsteps.
She called a sister who lives nearby and 911. The intruder, Mrs. Plank was told, had been at a nearby party in this quiet residential area, brandishing his machine gun and bragging that he was about to "mess up" some homes.
The intruder entered through a bathroom window, and, startled, opened fire. A bullet struck Mrs. Plank.
Brandy attacked the intruder, biting his arm while taking five shots from the intruder's machine gun. The dog chased the intruder out.
Today, both owner and pet are well on their way to recovery. Mrs. Plank has returned to her job as a juvenile court scheduler.
Sheriff's deputies designed and awarded Brandy a medal, the Purple Heart, for her bravery. Until recently, Mr. Plank says Brandy had been sleeping indoors under the bathroom window as an extra measure of protection for her owners.#Brandy was selected from among 200 entries received by Ken-L Ration. She received a certificate of merit, a bowl in the shape of a dog biscuit with a divider for food and water, and a year's supply of dog food.
The Planks did not enter her name in the contest. But they are happy with the nationwide fame that has pounced upon their pooch.
"It's kind of neat," Mrs. Plank says. "It shows people that animals do know what's going on.
* Promise, a terrier from Tucson, Ariz., was on his way back from the veterinarian when owner Alan Gillies took a wrong turn on a desert road. His car became stuck in a gully and Mr. Gillies was unable to make it out of the rut. Despite wearing a large surgical collar shaped like a megaphone, Promise nudged Gillies on and led him to a nearby road, where the two were rescued by a passing motorist.
* Ivan, a 15-month-old Labrador Retriever-Siberian Husky mix from Redmond, Wash., roused his owner, Taj Brumleve, from a sound sleep after fire broke out in their apartment. Ivan awakened Ms. Brumleve, who is hearing-impaired, by jumping on her chest. Then the dog went up to the bedroom of Brumleve's three-year-old daughter and pulled the girl out the front door to safety. All escaped unharmed.