Patches: An Unlikely Hero

Once a Lonely Hearts Club member at the APA, Patches is now in training to perform lifesaving work.


Those who don’t know Patches don’t notice his insatiable appetite for toys. They don’t know how, every day on his walk, Patches raced out to the toy box in the dog park to pick out his own stuffed animal or ball, or both, if he could fit them in his mouth. They haven’t heard how we bent the “outside only” toy rule for Patches so that he could carry his all the way back to the kennels before releasing it.

They do, however, notice his ears. Those long, pointy ears that always stand erect and usually cross in the middle are what visitors to the shelter noticed about Patches. Unfortunately, it was often the only thing they noticed. For six months, the big black and white pup with funny ears sat in his kennel at the APA, rarely requested to visit with potential adopters. That is, until last week, when Mary Roy noticed something more.

A member of the Missouri Task Force, Mary trains dogs to find people in the rubble of collapsed buildings after tornadoes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks. It’s a high-pressure job that requires organization, precision and extraordinary focus. Dogs that do well in these situations are hard workers who have an uncanny ability to zone in on their target and get to work. When Mary began looking for a new Search and Rescue dog to join the team, she knew exactly what qualities she wanted in a pup. Mary called the APA to ask the staff if we had any high energy dogs whose love for toys bordered on obsession. We told her we had just the dog for her.

A few days later, Mary arrived at the APA to visit with Patches. She took him out back to the dog park to test his toy drive. A good Search and Rescue dog, she said, would have an incredible drive for the toy and stop at almost nothing to get his prize. Unsurprisingly, Patches passed the initial visit with flying colors. However, Mary couldn’t guarantee that Patches would do well as a Search and Rescue dog without first taking him to “the rubble,” a training ground for Search and Rescue dogs in Columbia, Missouri. While Mary filled out the paperwork to foster Patches in order to test his skills, Patches climbed and clambered around the desk, trying to get to the toy he had previously been playing with. “Look at him go,” laughed Mary.

And go he did! Patches met and surpassed all expectations during his tests in the rubble last weekend. Mary’s fellow Search and Rescue team members even said he was one of the best dogs they’ve seen! On Monday, Mary returned to the APA to formally adopt Patches, and we were all ecstatic to see him and hear how well he had done. His new life as a working dog will take him through two years of rigorous training before he is certified to assist in finding victims after disasters. Obedience, agility and scent training are all part of his homework, and he couldn’t be happier about it.

We are so proud to see one of our former Lonely Hearts Club members going on to perform such valuable and amazing work, and we can’t wait to hear updates on his progress. Congratulations to this great pup, and thanks to both him and Mary for the service they provide to our communities when we need it most!



One thought on “Patches: An Unlikely Hero

  1. Awesome article! This just made my day! Love it! Thank you to Mary and Patches for your awesome work!