Dog Who Protected Obama Family Awarded Medal

Hurricane is the first international dog to receive this British medal
By Karen B. London PhD, October 2019

The job of the Secret Service to protect important elected officials is too important to be left to humans alone. Dogs also protect presidents and their families. One such canine just received a prestigious award for protecting the Obama family from a White House intruder back in 2014.

Hurricane, a Belgian Malinois, was working as a Special Operations Canine (part of the United States Secret Service) on October 22, 2014 when an intruder climbed a fence at the White House. Hurricane ran past the guard who had the intruder at gunpoint, upended him so he was no longer standing and pushed him back to the fence, keeping him restrained. This is a large, powerful, highly trained and skilled dog who did just what he was supposed to do, even though he was kicked and punched by the intruder. Though Hurricane was injured in the attack, he made a full recovery.

A fence jumper at the White House one month earlier was not apprehended until he was already inside and in the East Room, raising alarms about the effectiveness of security. The successful defense of the perimeter by Hurricane and other members of the Secret Service showed that the improved system for protecting the White House and its occupants was working.

Hurricane is the first dog from outside the U.K. to be awarded the Order of Merit from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. This honor is considered the animal version of the Royal Order of the British Empire, and has been given to 19 dogs and 12 horses.


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Canine handler Marshall Mirarchi worked with Hurricane from 2012 through 2016. Now that Hurricane is retired from service, he lives with Mirarchi. The two of them traveled together to the U.K. to accept the medal for devotion to duty. The official description of the award says that it “recognizes animals who display outstanding devotion above and beyond normal companionship, and animal acts that symbolize their special relationship with humans.”

An award from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was given to Mirarchi and Hurricane for their combined efforts to thwart the fence jumper’s plans. They received the Secretary’s Award for Valor in 2015. As an older dog, Hurricane has a good life and has taken to retirement well, enjoying hikes, runs and swims. It’s easy to see he is in good hands when Mirarchi says, “Hurricane is my whole life. We do everything together.”

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life