Service dog honors fallen New Hanover Firefighter


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Terri Smith and William Heath are two people who now share one connection a golden retriever.

“He just gives me lots of confidence and we’re a team and we’re inseparable,” Terri Smith said.

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“This dog has absolutely taken on so many of the likenesses of my brother,” William Heath said.

Heath is a golden retriever named after Captain David Heath, a New Hanover County Fire Captain, who died in 2013 during a training exercise. Heath has been training to become Terri’s service dog. David’s brother, William showed up at Paws4People with a surprise: a black vest which means Heath can now go home with Terri.

“I still didn’t understand,” Smith said. “I’m thinking, ‘okay this is just symbolic, this is just going through the motions here. Still got a test tomorrow.’ Then when Cece told me I tested yesterday, I just can’t tell you how much that means.”

William says he sees his brother in this dog. Not just in how he acts, but also in his commitment to service.

“This is just an extension of my brother,” Heath said. “This is him continuing on what he started out doing 35 years ago.”

It’s a bond that now links two people.

“She’ll be in my family for the rest of my life,” Heath said. “She’ll be part of the Heath family for the rest of her life. That will never change.”

Smith has one thing to say to the man whose legacy will live on trough her service dog.

“Thank you for being who you were and touching so many lives and still continuing to touch lives even though you are in heaven,” Smith said. “I hope this boy carries on his legacy as he would want.”

Smith says she is planning to take Heath to the fire department to give back to the firefighters who helped her.