LONDON - A U.S. Secret Service dog that prevented a potential attack on President Barack Obama in the White House in 2014 has been given the rare honor of an Order of Merit from a British charity, the first foreign animal to receive the award.
Hurricane, a Belgian Malinois, was a highly trained member of the Secret Service and had previously been part of a victorious U.S. Canine Olympic team.
In October 2014, when Obama and his family were home at the White House, an intruder scaled the fence and managed to fight off the first canine team deployed to intercept him. Hurricane and his handler, Special Operations Officer Marshall Mirarchi, were the backup team that night.
"The second he got target lock, I sent him," Mirarchi said. "He weaved through our teammates and took the individual down. Your normal scenario is that's it, and you go up and get them. This was obviously different."
The intruder punched, kicked and swung Hurricane through the air.
"You're not expecting someone to fight a dog back for that long with that much violence," Mirarchi recalled. "The individual wasn't responding to any pain for whatever reason. So, I had to sit back and kind of watch Hurricane go to war. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."
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Hurricane's jaws locked on the suspect's arm, and he eventually forced the man to the ground where he was detained by armed officers. Hurricane was badly injured.
"To see him afterward after that happened, bring him back to the car and have him look at me, like, you can read his mind. It's like 'Dad, did I do a good job?' He doesn't know he's protecting the White House. He doesn't know the president and his family are inside. He's doing that for me."
Hurricane received the Order of Merit last week by British animal charity PDSA. Director General Jan McLoughlin said the award is the animal equivalent of royal recognition.
"It's given for animals who show distinguished service for society, who go above and beyond that level of human and animal companionship - devotion to duty."
British Airways gave Hurricane VIP treatment during the trip to London, with a limousine ride to the airport and a flat-bed seat next to Mirarchi.
The 10-year-old dog left active duty in 2016 with health problems caused by the attack. He now lives with Mirarchi in first class retirement.