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Fort Collins Disaster Dog Honored For Rescue Efforts

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – She’s helped out at disasters all across the state, and now a dog from Fort Collins will be honored for her work.

Patella has been named one of the finest in her field in the country. She may look like an ordinary black lab, but Patella is far from average.

Jim Houck with Patella (credit: CBS)

Jim Houck with Patella (credit: CBS)

“She can be a bit of a goofball — until it’s time to go to work,” Jim Houck with Poudre Fire Authority said. “Her specialty is human remains detection, and within that her specialty is in disaster environment.”

Alongside Houck, her owner and handler, Patella responds to disasters all across Colorado.

“We assisted in the recovery in the Lower North Fork Fire,” Houck said.

Within the last year Houck and Patella made three trips to the Philippines after the November typhoon to help recover the missing.

“The debris was about 30 feet deep, it was an enormous area,” Houck said. “Patella has a unique ability to walk on different types of rubble. She can climb a ladder, she can climb down a ladder. There’s not much that fazes her.”

In fact, Patella’s global search and rescue efforts are gaining national recognition from the American Kennel Club. Out of more than 300 dogs across the country Patella is one of five given a Canine Excellence Award.

“It’s quite an honor.”

The 5-year-old Labrador has no idea she’s one of America’s “top dogs.”

“It’s a game for her. She does it all for her reward – for her toy.”

But she must know she’s far from ordinary.

“She’s got a knack for it, she likes what she does.”

She would have been among the heroes who helped during the September floods but she was giving birth to a few puppies. In fact, one of the puppies is now being trained to do just the same as her mom.

Patella will receive her Canine Excellence Award in Orlando in December.

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