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updated: 4/3/2014 6:43 PM

Saying goodbye to Des Plaines' hero dog

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  • Zurich, a yellow Labrador retriever who served as the constant companion of Des Plaines resident Patti Kennedy, has died. He received a national service dog award in 2011.

      Zurich, a yellow Labrador retriever who served as the constant companion of Des Plaines resident Patti Kennedy, has died. He received a national service dog award in 2011.
    Daily Herald File Photo by Joe Lewnard, 2011

  • Video: Des Plaines' Hero Dog

 
 

Zurich, a yellow Labrador retriever, was known to Des Plaines resident Patti Kennedy as a hero for the seven years he served as her constant companion.

And when Patti succumb to a rare degenerative brain stem disorder known as Shy-Drager syndrome in 2012, there was Zurich, still wanting to help out.

"They go through mourning just like people do," said Dion Luper, Patti's widower. "For a couple weeks there, he was looking all over the place for her. I found every pair of her shoes under her hospital bed. He wanted to continue to work, and it was just -- I shook my head. I couldn't believe it."

Zurich, who received national recognition in October 2011 by winning the American Humane Association's Hero Dog Award for service dogs, died this week at the age of 11. Veterinarians discovered cancer in one of Zurich's lymph nodes, and it later spread to his lungs.

Despite his advancing age and declining health, Zurich still relished his role as a service dog, Luper said.

"He still tried to do things. You'd put his vest on -- that indicated he was to go to work. When he had his vest on, he put his work face on," Luper said. "The vest was like his suit and tie."

Zurich came to work for Patti in 2004 after she and her husband visited a booth for Canine Companions for Independence at a convention for people with disabilities.

Zurich was best at picking up items off the ground, turning on and off light switches, fetching the newspaper, and opening the refrigerator and getting a bottle of water.

"As time went on, he became just a glue to her side. The doctor would ask Zurich how she's doing. He really knew if something was wrong with her. He had this extra sense if something wasn't right," Luper said.

"It really was the best thing that ever happened to her was getting him because she lived every day for that dog."

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