When Gina Silvestri heard screams coming from her neighbors about a missing 10-year-old boy, she immediately asked them for something that belongs to him.
Silvestri took the boy’s favorite toy — a stuffed monkey — and pushed it up to her dog Sasha’s nose. Then they were off.
Sasha, whom Silvestri rescued from Miami-Dade Animal Services in October 2019, ran through the Hallandale Beach neighborhood and spotted the boy, who was several blocks away. That was Dec. 26, 2019, about a month after he was adopted.
Lorraine Ruth, the boy’s mother, credits the Belgian Tervuren for finding her son Noah — who has Down Syndrome and is nonverbal.
“To have a dog come to the rescue was just so amazing,” said Ruth. “We had never even met them before. And he tracked right to him.”
Sasha, whose name means man’s defender, now has the chance to win the American Humane Hero Dog Award in the shelter category. Silvestri said she nominated him as a way to amplify how incredible shelter dogs can be.
“This isn’t just about Sasha,” she said. “This is about raising awareness about shelter pets.”
The American Humane Hero Dog Awards is an annual competition that recognizes dogs “who do extraordinary things,” according to its website. Dogs could be nominated in seven different categories — including law enforcement and detection dogs, therapy dogs and shelter dogs. Through noon Thursday, anyone can vote for one dog in every category each day. The dog who wins the title of 2021 American Hero Dog will be featured on Hallmark Channel in the fall. There are more than 100 dogs in Sasha’s category.
Sasha, whom Miami-Dade Animal Services originally named Bear, was found Oct. 3, 2019, off 305th Street and 191st Avenue in Homestead — near the Everglades. According to Miami-Dade Animal Services, he was found as a stray and picked up by the Humane Animal Response Team. When he first arrived, staff noted that he was fearful and shy.
Meanwhile, Silvestri, who loves the breed, said she heard that one had arrived at the shelter. On Oct. 9, Silvestri brought him home. She named him Sasha. He quickly adjusted and became her service dog.
She added that she’s been blown away by “how smart he is.” Aside from helping find Noah — for which he got a proclamation from the City of Hallandale Beach — he has also helped a 77-year-old neighbor who had fallen. Silvestri said Sasha kept licking and poking her, as to distract her from the pain she was feeling from falling.
“I couldn’t get him away from her,” she said.
Sasha also has been the face of fundraisers for various rescues and one to help a retired police dog. Silvestri shares his adventures on his Instagram account Sashatheherodog.
Flora Beal, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Animal Services, said it’s always helpful “to showcase a pet that has been adopted from our shelter and has gone on to do great things.”
“Hopefully it will prompt more adoptions,” she added.
How to vote
What: The American Humane Hero Dog Awards
When: Voting runs through noon Thursday
How: Visit https://herodogawards.org. Sasha is listed in the shelter category. Anyone can vote for one dog in every category each day.