Following more than a million votes by the American public and the opinions of an expert panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts, “Chi Chi,” a four-year-old Golden Retriever from Phoenix, Arizona has been named this year’s most heroic dog, besting 265 other brave canines and capturing the top title of “American Hero Dog” at the 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.
The eighth annual Hero Dogs Awards is sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc. and Zoetis Petcare (a U.S. business unit of Zoetis) and will be broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel October 24 at 8:00 pm ET/PT.
Chi Chi is a quadruple amputee who is inspiring people all over the world. She was left for dead in South Korea where she was found in a garbage bag with her legs bound, worn to the bone, and already necrotized. The only way to save her life was to amputate portions of all four of her legs. When she first arrived, she was afraid of people, but with time and lots of love and grace, she realized that she is safe and no one will ever hurt her again. She forgave and decided to trust people again. She quickly adapted to her first set of custom prosthetics and now loves spending her days as a certified therapy dog sharing her joy and cheerful demeanor with people of all ages. Recently, she had surgery to remove cancer tumors, so she is a cancer survivor. When people meet Chi Chi, they are inspired by her courage, perseverance, ability to overcome adversity and her never-give-up attitude. She exemplifies resilience and forgiveness, and openly shares her love and compassion in abundance. Her sweet-tempered and gentle spirit opens people’s hearts and her perceptive spirit senses where her love is needed. When people hear Chi Chi’s story and experience her attitude of joy, they are often inspired to face their challenges with renewed courage and a fresh perspective. Chi Chi brings joy everywhere she goes and her optimism and smile spreads quickly to others. She positively impacts thousands of people all over the world via her online therapy work through her social media account.
For her extraordinary bravery and good works, Chi Chi won the American Humane Hero Dog Awards’ “Therapy Dog” category. This year, the Therapy Dog category is sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food, the official pet food sponsor of the 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Awards. We thank them for helping draw attention to Chi Chi’s story and spotlighting the remarkable ways dogs are capable of forgiveness and moving on to do good things for others even when they themselves were in need of help.
A Galaxy of Stars Honors Hero Dogs
The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America’s most courageous canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel by television and film star James Denton and bestselling author and animal advocate Beth Stern, accompanied by a galaxy of celebrity stars and presenters including TV star Erik Estrada; actress Danielle Fishel; actress Bailee Madison; TV actress Kellie Martin; TV host Debbie Matenopoulos; TV host Cameron Mathison; TV host and animal trainer Brandon McMillan; actress Barbara Niven; actor Jerry O'Connell; actress Denise Richards; actress Rebecca Romijn; TV host and actress Alison Sweeney; “Modern Family” actress Ariel Winter; and TV host and animal expert Larissa Wohl. Actor Dean Cain brought his super powers in the form of heroic voiceovers of the individual finalists’ tribute videos.
Wildlife conservationist and popular TV personality Jack Hanna provided a delightful pre-taped video congratulating all the dogs and urging everyone to support the animals of the earth. Before the show, the audience was treated to the artistry of The Alex Donner Band, the Nunziata brothers, and a special appearance by Hallmark Channel’s Goodwill Ambassador Happy the Dog.
The Hero Dog Awards were created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs. The event will be broadcast nationwide by Hallmark Channel on October 24 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central. The program will air as part of Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project, the network’s cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives. During American Humane’s annual “Adopt-a-Dog Month” this October, the organization is teaming up with Hallmark Channel’s “Adoption Ever After” campaign to help get more of the millions of beautiful animals left in shelters each year into forever homes. All throughout the month, animal lovers can go to www.AmericanHumane.org to find adoptable dogs in your area, tips on preparing their home for a new four-legged companion, and other vital information, social media campaigns and blogs to help build a better world for our best friends.
“The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our best friends,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. “These heroic canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives 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. All seven category winners tonight exemplify what it means to be a hero, and we hope that their stories – and Chi Chi’s – will inspire people to value our animal friends and to recognize and honor how much they do for us every day.”
“It is an honor to support an effort to recognize the best of our ‘best friends,’” said philanthropist Lois Pope, who has been the awards’ presenting sponsor for seven years. “From those who defend our country to those who help us heal, guide us, protect us, and help find the lost, every single contender exemplifies the courage and heroism we seek to spotlight in the Hero Dog Awards campaign. Through this national forum we have helped educate America about the lifesaving, life-affirming work of our nation’s canine heroes.”
The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Michelle Beadle, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Kristin Chenoweth, Jamie Chung, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Erik Estrada, Danielle Fishel, Carolyn Hennesy, Carson Kressley, Miranda Lambert, Bailee Madison, Adrienne Maloof, Agent Jerry Means, Laura Nativo, Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, Mark Steines, and Lisa Vanderpump.
All Finalists Are Winners
Chi Chi was the one chosen as 2018 American Hero Dog, but all seven finalists were winners in their categories, and we salute them for their courage, service and compassion. Here are their official nominations, as told by their handlers and owners:
Law Enforcement/Arson Dog of the Year (category sponsored by K-9 Courage from Zoetis Petcare)
K-9 Flash (Detroit, MI) – K-9 Flash was found in an animal shelter when she was only 9 months old. She was picked up on the streets of Everett, Washington, with no home, no name, and no family. We were starting a Narcotics K-9 course at the Washington State Patrol Academy in Sept of 2005, when we were evaluating dogs in shelters who possess a good hunt, air scent, retrieve, and prey drive. Flash excelled in all of those areas, so we took a chance on her and included her in the class just one day before she was to be euthanized. Once she had her chance, Flash excelled in Narcotics detection and graduated as the only dog to score 100 percent on her certification. She was assigned as the first Narcotics K-9 on Patrol at the Yakima Police Department while assisting two DEA Narcotics Task Force Teams, Regional SWAT Team, and the Patrol Division. K-9 Flash had over 3,000 deployments in her career with over 2,200 narcotics-related finds and seizures. When Flash retired in 2013, she was just getting started. Because of her fortitude and her will to be successful, she inspired her handler to start a national nonprofit to take care of retired K-9 heroes like her with medical assistance, food, and end-of-duty services. Most people don’t know that when K-9 heroes like Flash retire they lose all funding from the agencies they served. Therefore in 2016, K-9 Flash was the sole inspiration for the start of Project K-9 Hero. She now has her own children’s book and travels the nation reading it at schools and inspiring children.
Emerging Hero Dog of the Year
Willow (Las Vegas, NV) – Willow is a survivor of the South Korean dog meat trade. His owners turned him in to the slaughterhouse because he was old. Neglected, with cut ears, matted hair, a mouth of bad teeth and an infected tongue, he was allowed to be rescued because he “didn’t offer much meat.” He was one of the lucky ones. Arriving in September of 2016, Willow is spreading awareness on social media and making public appearances to educate people on animal welfare topics (including the dog and cat meat trade) through non-traumatic and non-graphic ways, and presenting resources to help more of his four-legged friends. Willow travels internationally in foamboard form and poses with trade survivors. His campaign, “I Am Willow, I Am Not Food” raises flight funds for dogs. He is the mascot for a newly created Animal Rights Club at a local school, helping students advocate for change in the classroom and aiding their school in becoming the first vegan option cafeteria in the State. We are developing educational tools to use in an animal welfare speaking series for schools and conferences. He is also getting therapy dog certification to spread awareness to disabled children through animal-related books/reading programs. Willow is a voice and inspirational leader for millions of animals, not just those subjected to the dog and cat meat trade. People listen, learn and respond to Willow. He is a vehicle for raising awareness. Willow is an EMERGING HERO who will grow that status into something that makes a lifelong paw print in the animal welfare world.
Guide/Hearing Dog of the Year
Frances (Staten Island, NY) – At the age of 32, I lost my eyesight from a rare complication after battling breast cancer. Over the next six months, I would have to relearn everything from crossing the street to sorting laundry. Then, the universe threw me the ultimate curveball – I found out I was pregnant! When people asked me how I planned on traveling with my baby, I responded, “I’m going to get a guide dog.” In September of 2016, Guiding Eyes for the Blind matched with me with Frances, a female yellow Labrador. Since then, “Franny” and I have become partners in both parenting and advocacy work for visually impaired parents. Now the mother of two daughters, I depend on Frances to help guide me to pre-school, doctor’s appointments and extracurricular activities. When “Franny” is not helping me meet the demands of motherhood, she accompanies me to help educate kids through our Visually Impaired Education Program (VIEP). Aimed at grades K-2, VIEP’s mission is to engage school-aged children through classroom interaction with the blind/visually impaired community; helping diminish stereotypes associated with blindness. Frances attends every presentation, a beautiful reminder about the important work of guide dogs. I believe Frances deserves to be the American Hero Guide Dog because her partnership allows me to be the woman I want to be. She helps me juggle all that comes with being a working mom while educating our community about living with vision loss.
Military Dog of the Year (category sponsored by K-9 Courage from Zoetis Petcare)
Sergeant Fieldy (McAllen, TX) – Sgt. Fieldy is an 11-year-old Black Lab with the heart and energy of a 3-year-old who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and retired in August 2014. I am his handler and I met him in South Carolina as part of a group of specialized units formed to combat the number-one threat in Afghanistan: Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). We were deployed to Afghanistan in February 2011. We both experienced first-hand the effects of IEDs when a vehicle struck a pressure plate during a patrol and injured the occupants. Knowing that we were both targets for insurgent observers, we worked tirelessly to detect explosives. He alerted me and found yet another IED, a 60-pound plastic barrel containing homemade explosives. During our deployment, Sgt. Fieldy found several more IEDs and their components, which helped save countless lives during our tour. After his deployment, he was taken back for refitting and training, and I returned home. I later found out that Sgt. Fieldy deployed two more times to Afghanistan and continued to find more IEDs and save many more lives. After serving four tours, on Aug. 7, 2014, I was finally able to adopt him. Since then he has very much enjoyed his retirement. In Nov. 2014 he participated in the Veterans Day Parade in New York City. And in July 2016, he was honored with the K-9 Medal of Courage award on Capitol Hill, and has been recognized for his bravery and courageous sacrifice on several other occasions. He has made a life-changing impact on my life. He is my hero!
Search and Rescue Dog of the Year
Ruby (East Greenwich, RI) – In October of 2017, a teenage boy went missing from his home in the town of Gloucester. After 36 hours and failed attempts to find him, the Gloucester Police Department requested the services of the Rhode Island State Police K-9 Division. K-9 Ruby and I answered the call and responded to the scene along with other K-9 teams. As part of normal protocol, I briefly interviewed the boy’s mother. During the conversation, it was revealed that the boy’s mother had volunteered her services working with Ruby six years ago at the RISPCA and fostered her each time she was returned. After hours of searching, K-9 Ruby and I were ultimately successful in finding the missing teenager, but unfortunately, he was found in grave medical condition. The state police and EMS services removed the boy from the scene and transported him to a local hospital where he made a full recovery. If it were not for the effort of the state police and especially K-9 Ruby, that young boy’s life may have been lost. You can think what you may, but I believe that was Ruby’s way of saying thank you to the boy’s mother for taking care of her during her rough beginning. Ruby was given a chance at life and ended up saving a life. With the efforts of two organizations (RISP and RISPCA) and a handful of amazing and dedicated people, great things can happen. Ruby will also be featured in a soon-to-be-released award-winning film, which documents her rescue, her rigorous training to become a certified Search & Rescue K9, and accompanies her on her first official searches with her handler, Daniel O’Neil.
Service Dog of the Year (category sponsored by Modern Dog magazine)
Roxy (Canton, NC) – Hello, everyone. My name is Justin. I am a disabled veteran from the Iraq war. I was deployed to Iraq as a U.S. Army infantry soldier. While in Baghdad during my 2006 deployment, I was blown up by an IED. I now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Once I was out of the military, I received Roxy as a fully trained PTS Service Dog from Off Leash K9 Training in Asheville, North Carolina. Roxy is trained in basic and advanced obedience, with three Canine Good Citizenship Awards. Roxy has been trained to indicate on my anxiety, so she can help alert me before the PTS gets out of control. She helps provide a distraction, so I can concentrate on something else besides the PTS. She helps me on a daily basis with simple life tasks. If it wasn’t for her showing me that it’s okay to be in society, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I take Roxy to our local V.A. hospital to help share Roxy’s ability with other Veterans. We enjoy bringing happiness and joy to the veterans of the V.A. Most people have never seen a pit bull as a service dog, but once they meet Roxy and see what she does, you can tell how much they really enjoy meeting her. We really hope Roxy can be the next top Hero Dog, to help continue to show the world that pit bulls are good dogs, but also amazing service dogs. We appreciate your time in reading our story. Please help Roxy get to the top! Thank you for your support. God bless our Troops and our veterans until they all come home.
Each of the seven finalists received $2,500 to be donated to one of American Humane’s charity partners. Chi Chi won an additional $5,000 for her charity, Pet Partners. In this way, more heroes may be nurtured.
Efforts Featured to Help Repay Our Best Friends and Those Who Protect Our Country
During the awards, two special video packages were presented about efforts by American Humane to help repay the debt we owe mankind’s best friend and those who protect our country. The first featured American Humane’s “Pups4Patriots” program, a national effort supported by Hallmark Channel, that rescues abandoned animals in need of forever homes and trains them to become lifesaving service dogs for veterans coping with Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Saving lives at both ends of the leash, the Pups4Patriots program seeks to help stem the tide of pet euthanasia and veteran suicide. Following the presentation, Dr. Ganzert led the audience in an ovation to recognize and honor the 130 veterans and their families in the audience. A second video featured a recent effort to assist more of the animals around the country who desperately require medical care after being abandoned or whose owners cannot afford to have them treated. In August, American Humane rallied an army of volunteers to the help animals at St. Landry Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana. Seven veterinarians, including Dr. Mike McFarland of Zoetis Petcare and the renowned Dr. Marty Becker, as well as more than 50 veterinary and veterinary nursing students volunteered their time for this project. Zoetis Petcare provided all the medicines and supplies needed to treat 230 dogs, 45 cats, and six horses. Not only did their efforts help prepare these animals for adoption locally; several were flown to Los Angeles for the Hero Dog Awards, where they were presented for adoption by an enthusiastic audience all too willing to take them home.
Heroes Who Save and Keep Our Hero Pets Healthy All Year Round Honored
Behind every hero pet is a hero vet or vet tech. Each year at the Hero Dog Awards, American Humane also announced the winners of its Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards. Dr. David Chico from Albany, New York, as named 2018’s American Hero Veterinarian, and Tammy Boland of Oceanport, New Jersey was declared 2018’s American Hero Veterinary Nurse.
“To us, all vets and vet techs are heroes and this is why we want to honor the best of the best in their fields,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO. “Indeed, Dr. Chico and Ms. Boland are tremendous animal welfare advocates and we are so proud to learn of their laudable accomplishments aiding the animals in need in their communities and beyond. And our thanks go out to our friends at Zoetis Petcare for sponsoring this special national campaign because we know how committed they are to recognizing the achievements of the veterinary community.”
“Zoetis Petcare is honored to sponsor these awards that recognize the extraordinary veterinarians and veterinary nurses who help keep the pets in our lives happy and healthy, strengthening the powerful human-animal bond between pets and the families who love them,” said J. Michael McFarland, executive director of Zoetis Petcare marketing. “Dr. Chico and Tammy have raised the bar for other veterinary professionals in the field through their inspiring service and compassionate care for animals.”
Hero Dog Awards Host and Animal Advocate Beth Stern Wins Surprise Award
Longtime Hero Dog Awards co-host and animal advocate Beth Stern was surprised with Hallmark’s “Adoption Ever After” for her work in helping thousands of shelter animals find forever homes. The award, which brought an ovation from the 700+ guests at the Hero Dog Awards gala, was presented by Real Housewives of New York’s Carole Radziwill.
And Thanks to Sponsors
Finally, American Humane honored the many generous sponsors who support the Hero Dog Awards and made them possible. “We thank the animals, their dedicated owners and handlers, and the generous sponsors who have helped bring about that recognition,” said Dr. Ganzert. “Thank you to Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation; Hallmark Channel; Zoetis Petcare, the Hero Dog Awards corporate sponsor and sponsor of the Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards; Military Dog sponsor K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis Petcare; Law Enforcement/Arson Dog sponsor K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis Petcare; Emerging Hero Dog sponsor, the maker of NexGard (afoxolaner) Chewables; Service Dog sponsor Modern Dog Magazine; and Therapy Dog sponsor Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food, the official pet food of the 2018 Hero Dog Awards. Dogs may be our best friends, but these caring organizations are theirs.”