For animal lovers and star gazers, it’s television’s biggest night of the year….and it’s coming soon. Following nearly a million votes by the American public, the nation’s most courageous canines of the year will be revealed on the American Humane Hero Dog Awards, sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc. and broadcast nationwide on Hallmark Channel October 25 at 8 pm/7 CT.
The “Oscars for Dogs” features a veritable galaxy of two-legged stars, including hosts James Denton and Beth Stern, Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Vivica A. Fox, Alison Sweeney, Bailee Madison, Danica McKellar, Daisy Fuentes, Carrie Ann Inaba, Barbara Niven, Brandon McMillan, Lacey Chabert, Danielle Fishel, Wells Adams, Josie Bissett, Kellie Martin, Debbie Matenopolous, Mark Steines, Cameron Mathison, Alexa and Carlos Penavega, Courtney Thorne-Smith, and Alicia Witt during the annual gala at the Beverly Hilton. Richard Marx provides the lead musical performance.
A VIP panel of judges for the 2017 American Humane Hero Dog Awards includes: Jennifer Arnold, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Carolyn Hennesy, Joanne Horowitz, Blake Koch, Bailee Madison, Adrienne Maloof, Agent Jerry Means, Laura Nativo, Shara Strand, Lisa Vanderpump, and Lou Wegner.
The four-legged stars and category winners who are competing to be named the one-and-only top “American Hero Dog” for 2017 include:
- Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs category (sponsored by K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis)
Ice (Olympia, WA) – In the early hours of July 21, 2016, a team of officers from the U.S. Forest Service and deputies from the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office were investigating an illegal marijuana garden on public lands within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Two suspects attempted to flee and Ice was deployed to capture one of the suspects. As Ice was apprehending the suspect, the suspect used a large knife to stab Ice twice in the chest as well as in the face and muzzle. Despite Ice’s serious wounds, Ice continued to apprehend the suspect until the suspect was taken into custody. Ice’s bravery likely saved the other officers from being stabbed or injured. Despite his trauma, Ice didn’t let out a whine or whimper. Ice’s handler and the team immediately bandaged and dressed his wounds. As the area was extremely rugged and remote, a California Highway Patrol helicopter was dispatched. Ice’s handler and other team members then took turns carrying Ice approximately three-quarters of a mile over rough terrain and through dense vegetation to a suitable landing location. Ice was airlifted to VCA Asher Animal Hospital in Redding, CA and taken immediately into surgery where the doctors and staff were able to repair his wounds. Ice has since made a full recovery and has returned to duty. This wasn’t Ice’s first scrape, and though he is a tough-as-nails working dog, Ice also has an extraordinary ability to interact and socialize with people. Both of these amazing abilities make Ice a truly special dog and partner.
- Emerging Hero Dogs category (sponsored by the maker of NexGard (afoxolaner) Chewables)
Abigail (Lehigh Acres, FL) – Abigail is a gal that did not ask for the life she was forced to live. Abigail and her bonnets have changed the world. Abigail is a HERO because of the lesson she teaches about forgiveness and dog fighting. Abigail and her Bonnets have brought awareness to the importance of ending dog fighting. A 1-year-old pit mix, she was found as a stray in Miami FL. Brockton drove to Miami to bring her to LIFE Rescue. Upon her arrival and after further examinations we suspected she suffered from a life of dog fighting. She was anemic, she was infested with ticks, and scars covered her bloody head, neck, back legs, and half her face was missing. She smelled so bad because of infections, and was covered in dried mud. One side of her face was missing and her skin had been ripped off right down to the ear drum. Abigail had only spent a day at the shelter before she was brought to the rescue’s vet clinic. Her injuries were at least a week old and she almost lost her life. Abigail had weeks of hospitalization and daily bandage changes. How would she live a normal life? Would she need rehab? She had several major surgeries with extensive skin grafts. Day Two of her journey is when her “mission” began.TJ, her vet and her vet tech Destiny were changing her bandages. The way they held the gauze looked like a bow. Since then we called her bandages “her bonnets.” People started sending bonnets from all over the world. Abigail is on Facebook at “Bonnets for Abigail” with over 12,000 followers who love her. Abigail didn’t need therapy. Abigail is the therapy. She loves people and dogs. She has a mission to continue to teach forgiveness and end dog fighting.
- Guide/Hearing Dogs category
Pierce (Palm Bay, FL) – While serving with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division during the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), Don sustained an injury that eventually claimed his vision. In the more than two decades that followed, Don navigated through life with his white cane, along with the support of his wife, Peggy, and two children. As an experienced cane traveler who moved about the world quite well, Don had not seriously considered getting a guide dog until one day he now remembers as a turning point in his journey. Last year, on a family vacation, Don and his son, Jordan, set out to explore historical monuments together. At the conclusion of the trip, Don asked Jordan to describe his favorite part of the tour to which the twelve-year-old responded, “Dad, I wasn’t paying much attention…I wanted to make sure you didn’t fall.” Heartbroken at this admission, Don knew Jordan needed the freedom to be a kid and not a sighted guide. And the payoff in having his guide dog, “Pierce,” has been even greater than relieving this burden from his son; Don is experiencing life with refreshed independence and freedom. His wife, Peggy, shares, “I have seen a new confidence in Don and I can’t thank Fidelco enough for their part in it. Don’s guide dog is a very loving companion and dedicated to his work. We have all fallen in love.”
- Military Dogs category (sponsored by K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis)
Adak (St. Cloud, MN) – Adak is a 13-year-old German Shepherd. His longevity and accomplishments as an explosive detection dog are unmatched. During his career he has provided support to dignitaries and celebrities, and at events across more than 10 states and three countries. He was a Contract Working Dog (CWD) for the U.S. State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, Ft. McCoy and for a private business, Dogs for Defense Inc. (D4D). Adak’s first assignment was in Iraq in 2006. Adak was assigned to support the U.S. embassy and dignitaries. Adak performed a sweep of the Baghdad Central Station prior to the arrival of a dignitary. While performing the sweep, Adak alerted to a vehicle in the area, canceling the event. On January 14, 2008, the Kabul Serena Hotel was subjected to a complex terror attack. During the attack numerous guests were trapped in the hotel. Adak’s was the first K-9 team to arrive, with terrorists still inside the hotel. Adak led a team of Americans who went room to room inside while terrorists were still active. Adak came across dismembered, deceased victims during his search and performed flawlessly. Over 20 people were evacuated, and a total of six people died, including one American. In 2009 Adak was conducting a sweep of the Ministry of Agriculture when he had an alert. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit arrived and identified the threat as a mortar shell. Working for D4D gave Adak constant opportunities to do unique detection work across the U.S. until he was 13. His transition from war to family member was incredible. Sadly, Adak recently passed away.
- Search and Rescue Dogs category (sponsored by Compassion-First Pet Hospitals)
Luca (Grand Prairie, TX) – On March 15, 2016, Fort Worth Police were dispatched to a missing endangered male. Two elderly men visited a large salvage yard when one suddenly realized that his elderly friend with Alzheimer’s was missing. After a brief search, he realized he needed help and called police. Many officers responded due to the age/medical condition of the missing man. After an extensive search, Sgt. Medrano asked Officer Brock if Luca would be of any help. Luca is Officer Brock’s retired Search-and-Rescue (SAR) German Shepherd, who was 10 years old at the time of this call. Luca excelled in area, water, avalanche and forest/desert searches. Officer Brock believed Luca excelled in this and it meant a helicopter ride, which Luca loved. Officer Brock picked Luca up from his home and Luca fell back into his training and used his SAR skills to search for the missing man. Luca alerted at an opening of brush at the Trinity River, which led to a very steep hill followed by a steep drop-off. Due to terrain, a PD helicopter responded and immediately observed the lost man in the river, stuck in waist-high mud on the opposite bank of the river where Luca alerted. Officers shed their gear, swam across the river, rescued the man and brought him to safety. Had Luca not tracked the man’s trail and located him, the man would have drowned in the river, which still had very cold, high, fast-paced water or succumbed to the temperature. Luca’s love and dedication to SAR shows the resilience of older dogs and how training doesn’t go away just because they retire.
- Service Dogs category (sponsored by Modern Dog)
Atlas the Wonder Dog (Dayton, OH) – After coming home from Iraq, struggling with PTSD and dealing with the effects of a TBI from a roadside bomb, I was virtually lost, locked in my own personal prison. I began getting treatment while still Active Duty, which consisted of talk therapy and a single prescription. After getting out of the Marines, I continued treatment with the VA system, and nearly a decade later, the “treatment” consisted of more than eight different prescriptions totaling more than 33 pills a day….my life felt very sad, hazy, and hopeless……I was lost. Until I found Atlas. Atlas is not only my service dog but my lifesaver. Atlas is a grounding and solid presence when flashbacks, hypervigilance, and the lingering effects of war begin again to creep up my spine. Atlas has been trained to sense these changes in me and then acts to redirect my attention and focus during these overwhelming instances. Whether it is to nudge my hand if I am getting anxious, wake me up in the throes of a nightmare or just stand behind me so I know someone has my back. With his presence, I am able to take an active, positive role in my children’s lives. Atlas has not only completely changed my life, but as the “face” of, and inspiration behind the creation of The Battle Buddy Foundation, he is also a beacon of hope for so many others struggling to cope. A regal reminder that there is hope, that there IS a way to find yourself again after combat and trauma, and that your pains and struggles have value.
- Therapy Dogs category (sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food)
Aladdin (Haddonfield, NJ) – Aladdin was found severely emaciated in 2013. He was missing 12 teeth and had open wounds. I foster emaciated dogs and he came to me. From the moment I met him, his little tail never stopped wagging, despite his horrific condition. Aladdin had a rough recovery but he overcame the obstacles put before him. He greeted every person with a lot of hope and despite the abuse he suffered he trusted enough to learn that no one would hurt him again. Within the year he was a certified therapy dog bringing love to everyone he meets. Aladdin is a Ronald McDonald House Ambassador dog, his favorite duty! He visits schools doing a humane education, anti-bullying program. He is a trained crisis response dog and spent a week in Orlando last year after the shooting doing therapy visits and fundraising for the Victims Fund. He works with the Philadelphia Police fundraising for the Fallen Officers Fund and attending the events they do with special needs children. He is an ambassador dog for Tito’s Vodka for Dog People Campaign and together they have raised over 300,000 for rescues and shelters all over. He also works with veterans and PACT for Animals. Most importantly he is a model/ambassador for Show Your Soft Side, a nationwide animal abuse campaign and he is the spokesdog for the rescue I work with, Lilo’s Promise. Lilo’s takes in medical needs dogs like Aladdin. Heroes come in all shapes & sizes, Aladdin has taught me that each time I watch him work.
“The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, and we are pleased that we have so much top-tier talent assembled to celebrate their work,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. “Dogs play a starring role in so many of our lives and these courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, protecting our troops on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it, and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. We thank all seven category winners and the celebrity animal lovers who have come together from all over the country to recognize and honor how much our canine companions do for us every day.”
Be sure to break out the popcorn, dog treats (and maybe a box of tissues), pull up a chair for yourself and your best friend, and tune in to this year’s American Humane Hero Dog Awards on Hallmark Channel Thursday, October 25 at 8 pm/7 Central!