Little Neck super pup awarded for heroism

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A 9-year-old Little Neck pup was named as one of the top 10 national finalists by the Humane Society of the United States as a 2010 “dog of valor” after he saved an 89-year-old neighbor’s life in August.

Tina DiLuca, of Glenwood Street in Little Neck, fell face-first in her garden during an extremely hot day in August and could not get back on her feet, said Maria DiLuca, her daughter. The 89-year-old spent several weeks recovering from four fractured ribs and a few abrasions at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island.

But Max, a Labrador retriever who belongs to neighbor Michael Szap, began barking louder than usual and continued to do so until he drew the attention of DiLuca’s neighbors. Maria DiLuca, who lives with her mother, eventually spotted her through her window.

The Humane Society of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., cited Max as one of 10 finalists for its third-annual Dogs of Valor Awards, which honors pups from across the nation who perform valiant deeds.

“I thought it was pretty cool that he was in the running,” said Szap of his dog. “It’s very prestigious.”

Szap said Max often lies under the shaded evergreens near a wooded fence on his property, watching the street. DiLuca had tripped over a piece of concrete and fallen into her garden, prompting Max to bark.

“Labs are very lovable and they’re great with children,” Szap said. “And if anything happens, they know to get you to listen to them, whether it’s something wrong in the house or if someone fell.”

The Humane Society’s Web site said Max “barked incessantly, leading his owner to investigate and discover his neighbor’s 89-year-old mother collapsed in the garden on a sweltering 91 degree day.”

The nation’s top dogs were Colorado Bernese mountain dog Kenai, which drew his family’s attention to a carbon monoxide leak; Texas pup Calamity Jane, whose barking signaled police to a house where an armed home invasion was taking place; and Binghamton Golden Retriever Benson, which noticed a neighborhood fire before anyone else.

The Dog of Valor Awards honors hounds which exhibit courage or resolve by helping people in need. The winners were announced March 14.

This year’s judge panel included actress Kristen Bell of the TV show “Heroes,” Sally Pressman of Lifetime’s “Army Wives” and Jay Kopelman, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who brought a puppy back from Iraq and wrote the book “From Bagdad with Love.”

Szap said he had heard Max was among the finalists several weeks ago after he was contacted by the Humane Society.

Max was originally bought for Szap’s son when the dog was a puppy.

“He’s been here ever since and he’s really part of the family,” Szap said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 5:53 pm, October 10, 2011
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