Hello House of Lords!

I was lucky enough to visit the House of Lords recently at The Palace of Westminster to see a very special dog receive a very special award from the PDSA; the PDSA Order of Merit, the animal equivalent of an Order of the British empire , or OBE.

The PDSA is a charity whose aim is to care for the pets of people in need by providing free vet services to their sick and injured animals, and promoting responsible pet ownership. You can find out more about what they do by visiting their website https://www.pdsa.org.uk/

Every year they also award one very special animal with an award for a particular kind of bravery. This year was a particularly big occasion, with the award going to a Belgian Malinois called Hurricane and his human Marshall Mirarchi, his US Secret Service handler and owner.

Special Operations Canine Hurricane, or 'Cane' as he is known, protected then President Barack Obama from an intruder attack at the White House back in 2014. This US Secret Service dog received the honour with a Medal for devotion to duty by the UK’s leading veterinary charity, PDSA, for protecting the then President and First Family from an intruder who attempted to gain access to the White House.

Hurricane was trained as part of the USSS Emergency Response Team and provided specialist protection to the White House and its grounds.

Cane is now retired from active duty having served the US for four years working until 2016 when he retired from service - but I'm glad to say that he still lives with his handler Marshall.

Hurricane flew to the UK from Washington in style First Class courtesy of British Airways and received his medal in person from the PDSA at the special ceremony at the House of Lords. Cane is the first international animal to receive the honour, which was instituted in 2014 and has been awarded to just 30 other recipients.

Commenting on the awards, PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Hurricane and Marshall to the UK for today’s presentation. Hurricane had a truly outstanding career with the US Secret Service, and went above and beyond the call of duty when an intruder tried to gain access to the White House. Despite suffering a ferocious assault he never faltered from his duty.

“Through our Animal Awards programme, PDSA seeks to raise the status of animals in society and honour the incredible contribution they make to our lives. The PDSA Order of Merit was introduced to recognise animals for the exceptional devotion to duty.

“Hurricane’s achievements certainly fulfil this criteria and warrant the highest recognition. We are thrilled that he has become the latest recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit.”

Hurricanes story

When the intruder gained access to the White House, Mirarchi gave the command and Hurricane flew into action. He made contact with the suspect, intending to push him back to the perimeter fence.  In the ensuing struggle, Hurricane was kicked, punched and swung through the air. Despite this violent, repeated assault, his jaws were locked onto the suspect’s arm and he never gave up.

He continued to drive forward and finally grounded the intruder, enabling armed officers to take him into custody. Though severely battered, Hurricane refused to be beaten and carried out his duties faultlessly. Hurricane retired on health grounds in September 2016. Officer Mirarchi believes the ordeal on the White House lawn that night contributed to his physical issues.

Hurricane’s heroic actions that night thwarted a serious security breach. He stood between an aggressive intruder and the US President, who was at home with his family. Hurricane’s devotion to duty and service, while enduring a horrific personal attack, make him a worthy recipient of the PDSA Order of Merit.

Award reaction

Marshall Mirarchi, Hurricane’s former USSS handler and adoptive dad, said: “Hurricane was such a legend within the Service. He loved working and his talent for the job impressed me every single day. That night, he stepped up and delivered under circumstances that no amount of training could prepare him for. I have never witnessed such violence toward a dog before but it didn’t stop him from doing his job.

“I am so proud of him and extremely thankful to PDSA for honouring his service and actions in this way. We are very pleased to be in London to receive the honour – Hurricane has travelled in style and is receiving the full VIP treatment, just as he deserves.”  

Thomas Sullivan, Chief of the Secret Service Uniformed Division, said: “The Secret Service Uniformed Division canine programme is, without a doubt, one of the best in the world, and Officer Mirarchi and Hurricane executed their mission flawlessly. The entire Secret Service is proud of Officer Mirarchi and Hurricane and all the men and women and canines that do that job every day.”  

New York Times best-selling author Maria Goodavage, who nominated Hurricane for a PDSA award, said: “I first met Hurricane and Marshall when I was researching my book, Secret Service Dogs. When I heard what happened that night and how impeccably Hurricane behaved, I was absolutely blown away. The skill and talent of these dog teams is second to none and I am completely thrilled to be here to see Hurricane honoured with the PDSA Order of Merit.”

It was such an honour to meet such a brave dog and have my photograph taken with him and Marshall. I was very emotional at seeing the video of Cane that had been commissioned to show his bravery and I was touched that members of the US Secret Service had flown in from America to witness a dog receive this award. It shows the love and respect that humans can show for dogs and the loyalty and devotion that dogs show to humans.