He was one of the 100 search & rescue dogs who responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11. He's one of only eleven still alive today.
Hoke, a 13-year-old lab from Indianapolis, retired last year with debilitating arthritis.
But now, this canine hero is in South Bend getting some help of his own for free.
"It's awful. It's just heart wrenching. It's just awful." Julie Noyes is talking about watching her dog Hoke suffer from crippling arthritis. For the last year, the 13-year-old lab has been having a tough time with his back legs.
"He can't chase his ball. You see the will. The body can't. But the mind really wants to."
Julie says, in his mind, Hoke is still 2-years old searching for victims at the World Trade Center, searching through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. So the lack of ability and pain is particularly hard on him. Some of his service work may have even caused this.
So Dr. Chris Persing of the Western Veterinary Clinic prepares Hoke for a stem cell treatment. Persing and MediVet, the creator of the therapy, are donating their help.
"What we hope to achieve is we extract stem cells form his own body. We extract them. We process them. We get them excited and get them ready to go do an action and then we inject them back into his own body."
It all starts with a surgery Thursday morning where they harvest fat tissue from Hoke's stomach. Put simply: then they process it, add enzymes and solutions to it and filter the stem cells out.
"Then we inject them back into his joints. Some of it will go into an IV so it can go to other areas of the body we may not have targeted that will help him as well."
It's all done in one day and often owners see results in as little as 24 hours.
Julie says, "I just thought, you know, probably in the next 6 months, I'm gonna have to put him to sleep, but now, maybe not."
Julie says even a little more time of having Hoke be able to walk normally, chase a ball again and seeing him regain a little of his dignity would be perfect.
Julie says, "Oh, it's incredible. It makes me want to cry."
Dr. Persing says, "He's served our country so I feel privileged I can try to benefit his future."
MediVet, the therapy creator has offered all of the remaining 9-11 service dogs this treatment free of charge.
If you were to take your family pet for this treatment, it would run about $2200 dollars.
Hoke will go home tomorrow.