Gabe Nation is in mourning.
A hero dog has died.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gabe, the 10-year-old yellow Labrador, who won the hearts of thousands through his affectionate personality and stellar military career, succumbed to cancer and failing health in the arms of his owner and best friend Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles "Chuck" Shuck.
Shuck, who has been with Gabe for the last seven years first as his handler in the Army and then as his owner, wrote on his Facebook page last night that Gabe was made comfortable with his favorite toys, snacks and medals before taking his last breath.
"I took him for a final walk," he said on Facebook, "kissed him a thousand times, but I felt peace when he laid his head in my lap and left me."
He noted that Gabe's condition improved slightly from Tuesday night, when he was rushed to the animal hospital and given four blood transfusions after internal bleeding was discovered; but it was not enough for a full recovery. The cancer had spread to his liver and spleen.
Shuck, a native of Lansford currently residing in Columbia, S.C., said via email, "He was my life, my pooh bear and my heart is broken into a million pieces right now. I appreciate the seven awesome years I had to be his dad and to give him the best life possible."
He also thanked everyone who supported Gabe over the years as he and the lovable pup journeyed through life together.
Gabe was the kind of animal that you fell in love with even if you never met.
Through Shuck's Facebook pages about Gabe, the pair brought light to many through pictures, posts and other activities. The love was evident Tuesday and Wednesday as hundreds of posts from friends sending condolences and prayers were posted on Shuck's page.
Gabe's life story is an inspiring one.
His life began on the streets of Houston, Texas, where he was a wanderer, with no family and no home.
Eventually he was taken to the pound; and in 2005, he was rescued by the Army.
He was taken to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, and trained as a bomb-sniffing dog before meeting Shuck in 2006.
The pair was deployed and traversed Iraq through 2006 and 2007, completing over 210 combat missions and finding 26 explosives and weapons.
By the time he retired from active duty in 2009 as Sgt. 1st Class, bomb sniffing, Gabe had become a decorated war hero, having been awarded three Army Commendation Medals; an Army Achievement Medal; 40 coins of excellence; and was named the 2008 American Kennel Club Heroic Military Working Dog.
Gabe was also named the 2012 American Humane Association Hero Dog last October and traveled with Shuck to California, where he accepted his award and earned $15,000 for the charity United States War Dogs Association, which helps send care packages to deployed K-9 handlers and help find retired military working dogs homes.
Most recently, he and Shuck were featured in the 124th Annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., broadcast nationally on New Year's Day. They were joined by a number of military personnel and their canine companions on the Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. float "Canines with Courage: The Military Working Dog Teams National Monument."
In addition to his military life, Gabe also liked being a regular house dog, enjoying belly rubs, walks, squeaky toys, visiting school children and wounded veterans, and lounging around with Shuck.
Shuck also posted that he plans to make a book for Gabe and stated that anyone can write or draw something to be included in the book. Donations to help cover Gabe's medical bills are also being accepted. Anything left over after medical bills are paid will be used to help other animals in need.
Drawings, stories, and donations can be mailed to Shuck at 9574 Windsor Lake Blvd., Columbia, SC, 29223.