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24 Incredible Canines Chosen to Compete For Recognition As America’s Top Dog

Public Voting Opens to Choose Eight Finalists for 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®; Awards, Presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Culminate in Red Carpet Awards Gala and Two-Hour Special on Hallmark Channel this Fall

WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, May 11, 2016

America’s animal lovers have spoken, and after more than 300,000 votes, 24 courageous canines are advancing to the semifinal rounds of the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®, presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation. The two dozen heroic hounds were chosen by the American public to advance to the next round from a field of 173 remarkable candidates. The public is now invited to visit www.HeroDogAwards.org between now and June 22 to vote once per day for their favorite in one of the eight Hero Dog categories. The eight finalists will be flown to Los Angeles to take part in the star-studded sixth annual Hero Dog Awards gala on September 10 at the Beverly Hilton, where one will be chosen as the 2016 American Hero Dog, the top honor a dog can receive. This must-watch event for animal lovers will be broadcast in October as a two-hour special on Hallmark Channel. 

In both the semifinal and final rounds of the competition, the winners will be determined through a combination of votes by the general public and a special celebrity judging panel. The top dogs in each category will win $2,500 for their designated charity partner and the winning 2016 American Hero Dog’s charity partner will receive an additional $5,000 for a grand total of $7,500. Each charity partner is dedicated to advancing the role of dogs in our lives and, as with American Humane, focuses on the importance of the human-animal bond.

This year’s voting rounds are dedicated to 2015 American Hero Dog Harley, who passed away earlier this year. This one-eyed Chihuahua spent 10 long years enduring abuse in a puppy mill before he was rescued by Rudi and Dan Taylor. Together, the Taylors and Harley rescued hundreds more dogs like Harley from puppy mills, giving them second chances at life. 

The eight categories for 2016 are: Arson Dogs, sponsored by State Farm®; Emerging Hero Dogs, a category that pays tribute to ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things, sponsored by Merial, maker of NexGard® (afoxalaner) Chewables; Guide/Hearing Dogs, sponsored by Clover Stornetta (which is also the “Mootastic” sponsor of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards); Law Enforcement Dogs, sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™from Zoetis; Military Dogs, also sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program from Zoetis; Search and Rescue Dogs; Service Dogs, sponsored by Modern Dog magazine; and Therapy Dogs, sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food (which is also the Official Pet Food of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards). 

Over the past five years, Americans have cast millions of votes for nearly a thousand dogs, all seeking the coveted title of American Hero Dog. The program reaches more than one billion people each year and draws the support and participation of top celebrity dog lovers from all over the world. Hosts, judges, award presenters, and entertainment acts have included Alison Sweeney, Bindi Irwin, Derek Hough, Michelle Beadle, Victoria Stilwell, Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Denise Richards, Joey Lawrence, Lisa Vanderpump, Burt Reynolds, Chelsea Handler, Martin Short, Jewel, Wilson Phillips, John Ondrasik, Carson Kressley, Miranda Lambert, Pauley Perrette, Kristen Chenoweth, Naomi Judd, Lori Loughlin, Lea Thompson, Eric Stonestreet, Fred Willard, Danica McKellar, Bailee Madison, and many, many more.

 “The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to spotlight the invaluable accomplishments of not only our best friends, but of the heroic handlers,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO. “This unique awards show celebrates the unbreakable human-animal bond, which has been a core part of our organization’s mission since 1877. This year we are also celebrating 100 years of rescuing animals from disaster and cruelty situations, and we commend the many heroes out there who work on the front lines to save animals in need, including many of these 24 semifinalists who were given second chances at life.” 

“The Hero Dog Awards recognize some of America’s bravest heroes on both ends of the leash,” said philanthropist and presenting sponsor Lois Pope. “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 this campaign. Our goal is not only to honor these magnificent dogs but to inspire America to reflect on the outsized contributions that animals make in our lives each and every day.” 

Key dates for the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards contest include:

  • May 11-June 22: Voting to determine the 8 category finalists
  • July 6-August 24: Voting to determine 2016’s American Hero Dog
  • September 10: Sixth annual Hero Dog Awards event in Los Angeles

Meet the 24 incredible Hero Dog Awards semifinalists!

Arson Dogs category (sponsored by State Farm) 

  • Amber (Bristol, IN) – Age is only a number. Amber is an 18-year-old yellow Lab mix rescued from an animal shelter in Florida before becoming a certified arson dog in April 2001. Amber was extremely hyperactive and really needed a job that could harness her energy. Her enthusiastic attitude made her an outstanding dog for arson investigations. Amber assisted with investigations in Indiana as well as surrounding communities in southern Michigan. Her small size and playful personality was instrumental while working arson scenes. Two arson suspects thought she was a neighborhood pup and decided to play with her during a fire investigation. Little did they know Amber was not playing at all; she was alerting to evidence on their clothing. When she was not investigating fires, Amber was instrumental in teaching fire safety to kids. She inspired the Elkhart Fire Department to start a fire prevention open house called “Amber’s Open House” during Fire Prevention Month. Amber retired from accelerant detection work in late 2007 but still helps her handler train future arson dogs. Her handler says, “It never fails to amaze me to see Amber still doing basic drills alongside young arson dogs in training. She has never lost her drive to work and still likes to show the young dogs that she may be slower but she still has a heroic heart.”
  • Jag (Easley, SC) – Arson K-9 Jag is a three-year old black Goldador with the Parker District Fire Department. Jag and his handler have been a certified accelerant detection canine team since May 2015. Jag is the first K-9 for the Parker District Fire Department, but he did not start off being an arson dog. Jag is a “career change” dog and was initially raised by Paws with a Cause to assist disabled individuals, but he loved to chase things and had a strong work drive that made him unable to serve as an assistance dog. The same drive that made him unable to continue training as a service dog made him perfect for arson detection work. Even though Jag never passes up a kitchen without trying to steal food off the counter, he is ready to work when duty calls. When he gets to a fire scene, he is ready to find evidence that could help to put criminals behind bars. Jag knows when it is time to go work and when it is time to educate kids. The team has visited more than 3,000 children and adults during fire prevention events and in less than a year they have assisted in more than 40 fire investigations. His handler says, “Jag is truly a hero who helps our community with everything from fire prevention to fighting the crime of arson. Jag serves the community well and with pride.”
  • Judge (Allentown, PA) – Allentown Fire Department Arson K9 Judge is a seven-year old yellow Labrador retriever who has been in service since early 2011. His handler says Judge is a more vocal than the other arson dogs, but he attributes it to Judge’s outgoing personality and drive to work. Judge is a well-rounded K-9 who thrives in three major areas: investigation, deterrence, and education. As an investigator, Judge has worked more than 275 fire scenes and during that time, evidence he has found has led to multiple criminal arrests and civil penalties for insurance fraud cases. As a deterrent, the numbers speak for themselves – the number of arson fires has dropped 52.7 percent since Judge has been in service with the City of Allentown. As an educator, Judge has been in more than 500 fire safety programs and demonstrations for crime watch groups, specialty dog shows, elementary and high school programs, and everything in between. He is now part of a pilot program with autistic children to provide them with lifesaving information. He has been instrumental in making the entire Lehigh Valley and neighboring communities more aware of fire and life safety.

Emerging Hero Dogs category (sponsored by Merial, maker of NexGard® (afoxalaner) Chewables)

  • Hooch (Tehachapi, CA) – Hooch is a French Mastiff with badly cropped ears, a broken tail, no tongue, and a bright spirit. Zach Skow, of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, learned about him from a shelter in Bakersfield, and was told that the dog would not eat or drink, and would instead thrash his food and water bowls around “like a maniac.” He was 35 pounds underweight – starving, dehydrated, and severely malnourished. Never thinking to check for a missing tongue, they thought he might have a broken or dislocated jaw that was causing his behavior. When taken to the vet, he was sedated to ready him for x-rays, and the gruesome discovery was made: Hooch’s tongue had been savagely removed at its base, likely in an attempt to prime him for the role of a bait dog. Hooch kept removing his feeding tube, but he took well to being hand-fed. He tilts his head back while his owner takes a handful of food and places it in the back of Hooch’s throat, letting gravity do the rest. Hooch stands for overcoming adversity, bravery and living in the moment. He spends many hours with Marley’s Mutts’ Miracle Mutts division serving as a therapy dog. He works with autistic, abused and special needs children. Hooch shows patience and kindness, is proof that anything can be overcome, and is a great mascot for bravery.
  • Josh (Sun Valley, CA) – Josh was taken into the shelter to be euthanized when he was just hours old due to a cleft palate, but he was given a second chance at life. He quickly became an Internet sensation, and this West Highland Terrier mix has accomplished a lot in his two years on this Earth. He is now the face of “Josh and His Critters” rescue, which, in just two years has saved thousands of different abandoned, sick, or hurt animals, including  pigeons, starlings, gophers, turtles, cats, pigs, rats, and anything with a heartbeat. The group also gives dogs on “death row” a second chance at life. In March 2015, Josh appeared on the cover of Modern Dog magazine, with a message to the world that birth defects do not need to be a death sentence. He also has a book about his life for sale on Amazon and has two coloring books, with all proceeds going to saving dogs on death row. Josh had a rough start at life, but he has gone on to save many more lives, and he will continue to save thousands of different critters through his Facebook page “Josh and his Critters.”
  • Noah (Mineral Point, WI) – Described as a mix of “Bichon, Poodle, and love,” Noah was born without eyes and had tangled back legs. Now he uses these disabilities to educate students about bullying and bringing love to the lonely. When Noah arrived from California, he was fitted for a Muffin’s Halo, donated by its creator, Silvie Bordeaux, and a custom wheelchair designed by Ruff Rollin’ Wheelchairs, donated by Mango on a Mission. It was evident from the beginning that Noah was overflowing with love. He began visiting elderly shut-ins who were lonely, bringing them joy, and then moved to larger audiences at nursing homes. His owner reports that it is “Simply amazing that a little blind dog could get those who hadn’t spoken in a long time to speak and smile!” Because Noah is unique-looking, he is a perfect example of someone who could be bullied. He goes to area schools for discussions on bullying and what to do if the students see it taking place. Noah sends the message that even though someone looks different, we all have the same needs, and we are no less important because of our looks.

Guide/Hearing Dogs category (sponsored by Clover Stornetta)

  • Hook (Sacramento, CA) – Hook is a 12-pound, 10-year-old hearing dog and goes almost everywhere with his handler. Three years ago the pair was in downtown Sacramento crossing a street. A train was coming that she could not hear because of her impairment. As she was approaching and crossing the track Hook started jumping on her and she did not know why; she could not figure out what he wanted. Then, she stopped and saw people on the street motioning to her. Hook saw the danger ahead that she was not aware of and pulled her from the track. She turned around not knowing why Hook reacted that way, but then saw the train. It had missed her by a foot. Another time a prowler broke into her office when she was in the back room. Scared and sensing a presence in her waiting room, she suddenly saw Hook bolting down the hallway, growling and chasing away the intruder. Hook’s handler is a family therapist and Hook sits beside her chair while she listens to and helps patients. She says that “the amazing thing about Hook is he is not only sensitive to my needs but to the needs of others. When he sees a patient in distress or crying he will leave our chair, go sit in the patient’s lap and lick their tears. He has brought smiles to many children, teens, and adults in our practice. Hook is everyone’s hero not just mine.”
  • Rasta (Anchorage, AK) – Rasta is a hearing dog from Canine Companions for Independence. Rasta has kept his handler safe in her active, adventure-driven life in Alaska. Rasta’s silent but firm signals warn her during walks of dangerous encounters with wildlife such as moose or even bears. Once, while in Washington, DC, they started to walk in a crosswalk when a car illegally sped through it, but Rasta responded quickly by jumping back and pulling sharply on the leash. Initially thinking thought Rasta just did not want to cross the street, Rasta’s sudden and strong action caused her to turn back from the speeding car. Thanks to his quick actions, the car simply clipped her arm rather than hitting her with full impact, which could have caused serious injury or death. If she had reacted quickly to Rasta, she might have been injury-free, but at that time, she and Rasta had only been working few weeks together and she was still learning to listen to Rasta. Now, however, she fully trusts him. Recently, at another crosswalk, she noticed Rasta’s signal and jumped back immediately, narrowly avoiding a collision with a cyclist pedaling fast to beat the stoplight. Now the pair are traveling across Alaska by motorcycle (and Rasta’s sidecar), raising support for Canine Companions for Independence.
  • Swifty (Cape Coral, FL) – Swifty and his handler have been a team for eight years, and are currently working on Swifty’s retirement process. His handler says that she “Couldn’t have asked for anyone more perfect than Swifty.” Because of all the compliments the dog has received and his great work as a demo dog, his handler decided to become a certified dog trainer so they can help other families get the same results with their dogs. Before Swifty came into her life, the handler says she did not have a passion for dogs, but now sees it as her life’s calling. His kind soul and happy spirit made her want to share his gifts with others. And no matter how long of a day the pair has had, Swifty is always wagging his tail and willing to give plenty of kisses.

Law Enforcement Dogs category (sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™ from Zoetis)

  • K-9 Edo (Los Angeles, CA) – On New Year’s Day this year, Los Angeles Police Department units pursued two suspects wanted for robbery and murder. “Suspect 2” carjacked and shot two occupants of another vehicle. He then crashed the car and ran into a house occupied by a father and three sons. Suspect 2 stabbed the father in his face but he was able to escape. Gunshots rang out from inside, and it was believed Suspect 2 shot the children. K-9 units arrived on scene and a plan was formulated to rescue the children. K-9 Edo and his human partner were deployed to enter into the house and possibly engage Suspect 2. As the team approached they were shot at through the door and they began to take more gunfire. The door was breached and Edo entered the house. Another gunshot was heard while K-9 personnel entered. Two boys had been shot, and Edo turned to engage Suspect 2, who then shot himself in the head, and Edo then pulled the suspect away from his gun. It was later determined that Suspect 2 began shooting the children when his pistol jammed. By the time he had fixed the malfunction, the officers arrived at the door and Suspect 2 started shooting at the police officers instead. Officers say that Edo’s actions saved the entire K-9 team. Suspect 2 died, but both boys survived.
  • K-9 Kiah (Bangall, NY) – In July 2015, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department welcomed a narcotics detection and tracking dog, K-9 Kiah. Unlike the typical police dog, Kiah is a rescued pit bull. As the first pit bull police dog in New York, she’s become an ambassador, blazing a path for others to follow in her paw prints.  Before joining the department, Kiah – a stray, found injured and abandoned in a parking lot – was rescued and referred to Universal K9, which trains rescued pit bull dogs for law enforcement with funding provided by Animal Farm Foundation. During training, Kiah earned recognition as one of the most willing law enforcement dogs Universal K9 had ever seen. Kiah was placed with an officer at no cost, quickly becoming his partner, best friend, and beloved family member.  Kiah’s incredible drive and infectious personality have made her a pop culture sensation covered by the Associated Press. Kiah demonstrates that rescued pit bull dogs can perform the same police work traditionally reserved for purebred dogs. Now, Kiah and her partner have set out to share that important message about the value of shelter dogs, performing demonstrations for children at local schools, attending K-9 conferences and ensuring safety throughout their community.
  • K-9 Roo (Boston, MA) – K-9 Roo is a ballistics/bomb dog with the Boston Police Department, and is retiring this year. His accomplishments include the recovery of 12 firearms (including three used in homicides), more than 300 shell casings involved in shootings, and he has answered at least 500 “shots fired” calls and 200 calls to investigate suspicious packages. He searched Boylston Street after the Boston Marathon bombing, looking for secondary devices amid the carnage. He was in Watertown the night of the shootout and was the only Boston Police K-9 present for the capture of Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Roo searched the yard he was captured in immediately after to ensure Tsarnaev did not plant any IEDs to kill responding officers. He has performed dignitary protection for everyone from the mayor of Boston to the President of the United States, including heads of state from all over the world. He has had the honor of attending funerals of former Boston oolice officers and officers killed in the line of duty in New York City. Roo has also brightened the days of children by coming to visit them in the hospital or performing demonstrations at community events. He’s protected thousands at public events, from Red Sox games to a New Kids on the Block concert where he ate an entire pizza that a roadie tried to hide – nothing gets by him.

Military Dogs category (sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™ from Zoetis)

  • MWD Belle T634 (Midvale, UT) – Belle T634 was retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after four years of honorable service and one combat deployment to Afghanistan where she served as an IED Detection Dog, earning the rank of Staff Sergeant. She and her handler trained together for more than a year and served for seven months together overseas where they assisted in the locating and identification of improvised explosive devices. Belle was trained to forge ahead of her fellow marines, smell out the IEDs before they detonated, and her handler was trained to sense and understand her reactions. Day in and day out, it was hard on her human partner and his fellow Marines as they worked and lived in combat zones. Belle brought a sense of comfort and ease, boosting morale among the unit. After exposure to several attacks and violence, Belle returned home, was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress, and was not able to deploy again. Her former handler seized the opportunity and called dozens of people in hopes of finding someone to help the Battle Buddies reunite together, and finally their reunion was made possible. Too often, MWDs are abandoned overseas, and eventually sold after their contracts expire. Belle works as an advocate to end that.
  • SSD Honza (Shavertown, PA) Specialized Search Dog Honza worked for the U.S. Army from 2010-2014. He deployed to Afghanistan in December of 2011 and was attached to an Army Special Forces team. While on this deployment his handler says there was one thing, and one thing only, that kept him alive: Honza. During their deployment he found 14 IEDs, weighing a total of more than 400 lbs. Honza placed himself in harm’s way on a daily basis, often the first American to walk down a roadway or path. Honza and the handler returned to Ft. Eustis, VA in December 2012 where Honza began conducting law enforcement operations. His work ethic and strong nose were well known on the base. He found several weapons along with other contraband during his time at Ft. Eustis, ensuring the overall safety of the base. Honza also regularly worked in conjunction with the United States Secret Service, conducting explosive sweeps for the President, Vice President and other dignitaries at the United Nations. Honza retired in 2014 and currently lives with the handler’s family, including a wife and two kids, and Honza’s two puppy sisters, Bailey and Luci. 
  • Layka (Galena, KS) – In May 2012 Layka’s team was assaulting an enemy compound in an Afghan village, receiving direct rifle fire from the compound.  Apache helicopters and Hellfires were brought in to help. Layka was sent into search for injured or live combatants and explosives. Once inside, she engaged an enemy combatant while taking four rounds from an AK-47 to the right shoulder area. Her handler removed her from the building and headed to a predetermined point for extraction where the medics started working on her. She was flown to a base where her right leg was removed and she was prepped for transport to Germany. Once in Germany she underwent more surgery to remove and repair her shoulder and triceps. She was moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to fully recover and was medically retired in August of 2012.

Search and Rescue Dogs category 

  • Abby (Jamestown, RI) – Abby is a 10-year-old bloodhound trained to find missing pets and humans. Throughout her career, she has helped reunite many pets with their owners. Abby brought  home a missing indoor cat whose 91-year-old owner was devastated and not eating due to stress; not only did she save the cat, she also saved the elderly gentleman. Three years ago a pregnant mother decided to take her oldest girls on a vacation before the baby came. Her parents offered to watch their “fur-grandson,” Bruschi, and the woman’s two-year-old child. Bruschi, normally very obedient, was worried that he had been left behind, and when the door opened, he bolted. No sooner did the family get off of the plane in Florida did they get the call that Bruschi was lost. Snowstorms prevented the family from returning home to help find their dog. Then Abby was called in and went to work and finally found Bruschi, whose paws were frozen. He could not walk and if he had spent another night outside he likely would have died. 
  • Kobuk (York, ME) – Kobuk is a certified search and rescue dog and a member of the volunteer, non-profit Maine Search & Rescue Dogs team. One of his most successful finds was locating a 77-year-old diabetic with dementia, who had been missing for two nights in the Maine woods without food, water, or her medications. Kobuk’s mission was incredibly time-sensitive. After hours of searching, on the third morning Kobuk’s nose went up into the air, and he took off running two-tenths of a mile to locate her. Kobuk sprinted back to his handler, gave a loud bark (the signal that he had found her), then turned back around and bolted back to the elderly woman with his handler in pursuit. Thankfully, she was found in time to save her life. Kobuk searches with enthusiasm, never quits while someone is still lost in the woods, and he loves to give kids his signature “Kobuk-kisses”
  • Piglet (Lancaster, CA) – Piglet is a five-year-old Catahoula Leopard dog, rigorously trained and certified to find human remains on land and water. Piglet and her handler are dedicated volunteers serving many communities. They are frequently called in to assist local law enforcement in their search for the missing. The handler personally spends thousands of dollars annually so she and Piglet can do hundreds of hours of training and testing. This ensures they are always ready when called. Piglet has built a reputation with law enforcement throughout California, Nevada and Utah, not only for her unswerving work ethic and talented nose, but also for her infectious smile. She makes friends when she appears at events and fundraisers – everyone wants to “Kiss the Pig.” But it is out in the field where she’s most effective, an unparalleled search resource and comfort to the families she’s helping. One example is a recent mission where she deployed in a remote wilderness area to find a missing man. Eventually, after long hours in the field, Piglet found him, but, sadly, he had passed away. Though this is never the outcome wished for, Piglet’s diligence and tenacity in making the find allowed the man’s wife and nine children to have closure.

Service Dogs category (sponsored by Modern Dog)

  • Akoya (Brighton, IL) – Akoya came to Stray Rescue in August of 2014. Emaciated and abused, Akoya was so distrusting of humans she had to be trapped in order to be rescued. Once she arrived at Stray Rescue, though terrified and withdrawn, her gentle, loving nature still shone brightly. She was chosen to participate in the Puppies for Parole program, so off she went to Missouri Eastern Correctional Center to receive training and certification. For years her handler struggled with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and PTS, due to being abused, bullied, and sexually assaulted. On September 18, 2014, she attempted to take her life, and ended up in a coma for three days. Thus began her search for a service dog, which led her to Akoya, “The smartest, most loyal dog I could’ve asked for.” She has helped her handler immeasurably, saying that she took Akoya with her to register for school, which she probably would not have been able to do without her. Now Akoya goes with her to class. When she cries, Akoya comes to her and begins to whimper with her. When she has nightmares, she will wake her up. When she is having a panic attack, Akoya comes up to her and lays on her, calming her down. Akoya’s handler reports she is able to leave the house more often because of this dog, and just being with her makes her happier, saying they have both found healing.
  • Gander (Great Lakes, IL) – Gander was saved from a Colorado high kill shelter, and was rescued by a women’s prison program in Denver, Colorado for obedience training. He was then trained by Freedom Service Dogs in Englewood, Colorado. It was there in September 2012 that his handler and Gander became a team. They have not spent one day apart since then and he credits Gander with literally saving his life. In 2014, Gander was the first mixed breed dog to win the American Kennel Club “Award for Canine Excellence.” Gander is on a mission. He travels the United States – 36 states so far – to encourage education and awareness for PTS, veteran suicide, service dogs, and persons with visible and invisible disabilities. While traveling, the team performs Planned Acts of Community Kindness (PACKS), and fundraising. They have been instrumental in helping to raise a million dollars for numerous veterans’ groups, veterans, service dog charities, and individuals in need. They sponsored the country’s first service dog education conference, and have given hundreds of presentations to schools and community organizations. The team created a collection of inspirational dog stories entitled, “In Dogs We Trust.” They love to visit hospitals, USOs and community events as service dog ambassadors.
  • Verbena (San Antonio, TX) – In 2009, an Army major was medically evacuated from Iraq and had his leg amputated following several surgeries. He also suffered from injuries to his right arm and had memory and hearing loss. He learned about Canine Companions for Independence while attending recreational therapy and applied for an assistance dog shortly thereafter. He left Canine Companions for Independence in 2013 with his new service dog, Verbena, or “Beanz” as he calls her. Her positive effects on him started immediately after they were matched together. By having her around, he no longer relies on sleeping medication. His demeanor is calmer. He is less stressed and overall a much happier person. Beanz rejuvenates him and gives him a much brighter outlook on life, which is not what she was trained to do; rather, they are bonuses that go along with the physical tasks that she assists him with each day. Beanz helps by retrieving various items including shoes and socks, dropped keys, and his wallet. At the end of the day, when he is sore from being on his prosthetic leg, she can turn off the lights. Together, they work with patients at Center for the Intrepid. As her handler puts it, “So many lives have been changed by Beanz; I can’t imagine life without her.”

Therapy Dogs category (sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food)

  • Aladdin (Haddonville, NJ) – Aladdin was found severely emaciated in early 2013. Both back legs and tail had been broken, and he was missing 12 teeth. His handler went to pick him up at the shelter and from the moment she first met this pit bull, his broken little tail never stopped wagging. He was literally a walking skeleton. She could not even begin to imagine what he had been through. Flash forward a year:  After extensive orthopedic care and almost dying from a medication reaction, Aladdin is a certified therapy dog. He visits the kids at Ronald McDonald House on a regular basis. He represents Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue, the group that saved him. He visits schools to teach kids about abuse and is an amazing ambassador for his breed. He is a model and ambassador for a nationwide animal abuse campaign called “Show Your Soft Side,” and appears at their events. In the last year he has taken on two new roles: He is an ambassador dog for a vodka company, helping to promote their “Vodka for Dog People” campaign, which funds low cost spay and neuter efforts. He also joined the Tri-State K9 Crisis Response Team, which provides support, aid, and comfort to victims of disasters and violence. Aladdin is an amazing soul. He gives back to the community daily. He touches everyone he meets.
  • Houston (Collierville, TN) – Houston did not look like a hero dog when the Memphis Area Golden Retriever Rescue saved this homeless stray from a shelter on the last day before he was to be euthanized. His life took a new path when a family adopted him around the same time one family member was diagnosed with his second bout of cancer. His owner knew the comfort and healing dogs provide. Together, they embarked on a new journey: Houston becoming a therapy dog and his owner founded “Love on a Leash.”  For over four years, Houston has been one of the top therapy dogs in the Memphis and Mid-South area. He visits patients several days every week at different facilities. Methodist Hospice named him Volunteer of the Year for 2015, the first therapy dog to receive this honor. He attended the funeral of a hospice patient he had comforted at the family’s request. At the funeral, the minister spoke about Houston’s work, and how much he meant to the patient and family. Houston even walked with the casket to the hearse. Attendees shook his paw and hugged him as the procession moved to the gravesite. Houston could have been an ordinary dog with an ordinary story. But with his owner’s love and training, he became an extraordinary therapy dog.
  • Mango (Las Cruces, NM) – Mango is a four-year old paralyzed rescue who was homeless, hit by a car, and scheduled for euthanasia. Emma’s Cleft Palate Chihuahua Rescue pulled Mango from a shelter, nursed her back to health and placed her in a program called Emma’s Rescue Reserve. This program was created to place paralyzed dogs with owners so they could work with disabled veterans who suffer from physical disabilities and show them that if a small dog in a wheelchair can overcome her handicap, then so can they. The comfort Mango brings them teaches that “disabled” is only a word and words should never stop our ability to overcome a life-altering, physical change no matter what the handicap may be.  Mango also helps other disabled pets through “Mango’s Freedom Wheels,” which purchases wheelchairs for them. Thanks to generous donations, the group has purchased more than 150 custom-built wheelchairs to help other animals regain their ability to be mobile again. She has put cats, dogs, and even a mini-horse and pig into wheelchairs so they can experience the freedom of standing and running once more. 

Meet America’s top Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians next week!

And because behind every hero pet there is a hero veterinarian or veterinary technician, the Hero Dog Awards once again feature a second contest – the American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards™, sponsored by Zoetis, with each to be honored at the Hero Dog Awards event on September 10. The top five Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician finalists, selected from among nearly 300 nominees by a special blue-ribbon panel of veterinarians and animal health and welfare experts, will be revealed on Thursday, May 19. The American public will vote to determine the winners in each category.

For more information about the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®, and to vote daily in the campaign, please visit www.herodogawards.org. For more information about the 2016 American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Technician Awards™, please visit www.herovetawards.org. For more information on sponsorship opportunities email Mari Harner at [email protected]  or call 1-800-227-4645. 

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