August 23, 2013 Updated: August 24, 2013 at 8:04 am
A local platinum blonde has stolen hearts across the country.
Carlos is a 9-and-a-half-year-old yellow Labrador retriever who recently won first place in the military dog category in the American Humane Association's third annual Hero Dog Awards on the Hallmark Channel.
He wasn't letting the fame go to his head on Friday morning, though, as a crew from MRB Productions set up his video shoot at Discover Goodwill, where he's a Goodwill Ambassador. Instead, he lay quietly next to his owners, soaking up scratches and love from visitors. The awards show will air Nov. 7.
"He has such joy. I've learned lessons from him - to enjoy life every day," said Ruby Ridpath about her dog, who was bedecked in a camouflage vest covered in patches that reflected his accomplishments: Retired military veteran. Third and Fourth Infantry Division. NATO ISAF.
CWD Carlos, which stands for contract working dog, was an explosive detection dog who served five years overseas. There are two types of dogs that serve the military: Department of Defense dogs and contract working dogs. Carlos was owned by an independent contracting company. He spent three years in Baghdad, Iraq, and was then sent to Kandahar, Afghanistan for two years. After he developed cataracts and arthritis, he was contracted to work with International Security Assistance Force, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led security mission in Afghanistan. When he finally retired, he stayed with Afghan nationals, where he suffered severe neglect until the Ridpaths adopted him.
It was in the spring of 2011 that Ruby and her husband, Wade Ridpath, saw a TV special about Military Working Dogs, a non-profit organization that helps retired military dogs find adoptive families. Through it, they were able to find Carlos, who arrived that November from Kabul, Ruby said.
As she talked about military dog adoptions, tears flow. She quickly lifted Carlos' head and scratched behind his ears.
"Hey, bubba boy," she whispered to him, as he looked up at her, "I love you, baby."
Since they've adopted him, Carlos has had three serious operations, including removal of a cancerous tumor and his spleen, which had a huge mass, and laryngeal paralysis surgery, but he's still trucking along.
"He has a zest for life that is unbelievable," she said.
The Amercian Humane Association founded the Hero Dog Awards in 2010.
"It's about awareness in each of these respective categories," said Dee Farmand, video director for the shoot. "A lot of people don't even know what these dogs can do."
There are eight categories of dogs in the competition: military, guide, service, emerging hero, therapy, hearing, law enforcement/arson and search and rescue.
Anybody over 18 can nominate a dog, and then owners must fill out an application to enter. Online voters decided the eight winners. One overall winner will be chosen by the public and a celebrity judging panel at an awards gala in Los Angeles on Oct. 5. The winner will be revealed during the November TV episode.
More than 20 dogs competed in the military category, and 140 dogs were entered overall, Ridpath said. This is the second time the Ridpaths have entered Carlos. Last year he won fourth place in the military category.
Each of the eight winners received $1,500 to donate to a charity. The Ridpaths gave theirs to Military Working Dogs. The overall winner will earn $5,000 for a charity of choice.
"He's laid back and loves people," Ridpath said. "He's a gentle soul."
Contact Jennifer Mulson at 636-0270.