PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, October 21, 2021 — It all comes down to this. After nearly a year, more than 400 nominations, a million votes by the animal-loving public, and a national television broadcast, seven courageous canines are converging from across the nation to compete for the top prize next month at the 2021 American Humane Hero Dog Awards gala. The 11th annual awards, created by the country’s first national humane organization and sponsored by the internationally renowned philanthropist Lois Pope, are being held November 12 at the glamorous Eau Palm Beach Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. The event will be hosted by Carson Kressley and will feature both animal and human celebrities including Vivica A. Fox, Grammy-winning musical headliner Lisa Loeb, country star Naomi Judd, singer Cande Rivers, the Alex Donner Orchestra, the seven heroic hounds who captured their categories in the national television finals this week on Hallmark Drama, and the winners from 2020.
“The eyes of the animal-loving world will be on Palm Beach come November 12,” said American Humane president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. “More than a million votes were cast by the American public over the past year to help choose these finalists and now the top American Hero Dog will be revealed. This once-a-year event, recognizing the outsized contributions that animals make in our lives each and every day, is something every one of us should support.”
“The Hero Dog Awards celebrate America’s often unsung heroes,” said philanthropist and Platinum 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.”
All seven finalists, who took top honors in their individual categories will take part in the glittering Hero Dog Awards gala. The top winner is determined through a combination of ballots from the public and a special, blue-ribbon panel of leading animal experts and celebrity animal lovers.
And because behind every hero pet is a hero vet or veterinary nurse, American Humane will also be showcasing the winners of the 2021 American Humane Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards®, sponsored by Zoetis Petcare (a U.S. business unit of Zoetis).
Meet the seven remarkable Hero Dog Awards finalists
Here are brief descriptions of this year’s finalists, written by the hero dogs’ owners/handlers:
2021 Shelter Hero Dog of the Year (sponsored by Lulu’s Fund)
Deputy Chance (Cape Coral, Florida) – Chance was a victim of animal abuse in Lee County, Florida. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office investigated the animal cruelty case and used forensics evidence to identify a suspect and subsequently get a conviction. Chance was adopted by Lieutenant Castellon and deputized by Sheriff Carmine Marceno. Deputy Chance is the spokesdog for the public affairs unit at the Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Chance was also named a Good Will Ambassador by the county commissioners. He regularly visits schools, hospitals, and community events. He promotes good will, has become an advocate against animal cruelty and helps promote adoption of shelter pets. Deputy Chance is the face of the Deputy Dogs Person Patrol program in Lee County, Florida.
2021 Military Hero Dog of the Year
SSG Summer (Mt. Airy, Maryland) – My retired canine partner’s name is Staff Sergeant Summer, a 10-year-old female Labrador. Summer retired from the Marines Corps in 2013 as a Military Working Dog and proud war dog. She most recently retired as a Police Explosive Detection Dog after serving proudly for seven years. While deployed, she conducted a substantial number of routine patrols, searching for and positively identifying countless weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, swept and cleared routes for the troops and was involved in numerous fire fights with insurgents. Summer put her life on the line to protect, defend and save the lives of countless troops. As a result of these exposures in war zone environments and other traumatic events that Summer experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, she was diagnosed with canine PTSD in December 2015. She copes with this condition daily. For her heroic, extraordinary valor and service to our country, Staff Sergeant Summer received the PDSA Commendation Award in July 2017 and the Lois Pope K9 Medal of Courage on Capitol Hill the following year. In retirement, SSG Summer continues to serve her country and fellow veterans by visiting them at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, located in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The veterans who reside at that location truly admire her story of service and enjoy the love and pats as she walks through their rooms.
2021 Therapy Hero Dog of the Year
Boone (Hookstown, Pennsylvania) – Boone survived heartbreaking cruelty as a puppy, which resulted in the loss of his back legs. His life changed when he was adopted by a family with a soft spot for special needs pets. His family had him fitted with a wheelchair to improve his mobility, and he has been a dog on a mission ever since – a mission to spread his joy to others with his infectious smile and story of resilience. Despite his challenges, his sweet nature and enthusiasm for life make him a perfect fit for his new profession as a therapy dog. They say that when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, and that is the truth for Boone. Children light up when he enters the room. Boone is an ambassador for the nonprofit Joey’s P.A.W. (Prosthetics and Wheels). So far, the charity has provided mobility devices to over 700 dogs in need in Pittsburgh, across the country, and even internationally. Boone and Joey’s P.A.W. hope to improve both the outcome for dogs with mobility issues in shelters and rescues across the country, as well as perceptions about their adoptability. Boone deserves the title of American Hero Dog because he inspires those around him every day to overcome the obstacles that life throws at them. When he is not spreading joy as a therapy dog, he is working to make life better for dogs with mobility issues in shelters. Just look at his smile. He is going to change the world!
2021 Service Hero Dog of the Year
Sobee (Holt’s Summit, Missouri) – Once living hopelessly and suffering from human neglect with only two days left on the euthanasia list in an overcrowded shelter in Georgia, Sobee is now living a purposeful life with her combat veteran in Missouri. Sobee was rescued in 2016 by K9s on the Front Line and began her training as a service dog for a veteran seeking rescue to complete the daily tasks that each of us commonly engage. Jason Howe, a disabled combat veteran in Missouri, was secretly fighting the internal demons of PTSD and addiction after returning from two deployments in the U.S. Navy. While Jason spiraled into a dark place, he found himself in Maine, talking with a high school friend who introduced him to Dr. Hagen of K9s on the Front Line, a non-profit organization that rescues/trains service dogs for combat veterans. Sobee and Jason were paired together in 2016 and an instant bond was built between them. Jason began to feel the weight lift off his chest and he now had a sense of responsibility with Sobee by his side. Jason would put two feet on the ground each day instead of covering up in bed and self-medicating. Sobee is trained to assist Jason with panic attacks and watch over Jason when he is in public places. Sobee has also been the reason Jason found himself assisting and training service dogs for K9s on the Front Line’s Missouri chapter. The bonded pair are paying it forward by successfully training service dogs for veterans.
2021 Guide/Hearing Hero Dog of the Year
Henna (Albuquerque, New Mexico) – I am deaf and legally blind. Henna, my amazing guide dog, has given me the freedom of travel and saves my life on a daily basis. She is an extension of my body, becoming my eyes and ears. Last year, while simply crossing a familiar intersection, I was nearly crushed by the trailer of an 18-wheeler. It was a sunny warm spring day and I was waiting with Henna to cross the road. After a few moments, Henna’s ear flick indicated it was our turn. I gave the forward command and we started crossing towards the opposite corner. We had reached the midway point when Henna suddenly backed up. She reversed so fast I knew instantly something was wrong. Her movement was strong, sure and deliberate, while ensuring I was not going to trip or fall. When Henna slowed enough for me to take in my surroundings, I could see a large truck was now completing a left turn in front of us. No more than five feet away, the trailer wheels rumbled where Henna and I were only moments ago. After the trailer passed, she guided me safely across to the opposite curb without me prompting her. Despite me being in shock from almost being hit, Henna continued to perform her job perfectly. To this day, I can still see the trailer’s reflective strips in front of me and know that this was only one of many times she saved my life, while allowing me freedom. She continues to confidently guide me and acts as if it had never happened. I can almost see in her face and hear in her voice, “I got you, mom! Just follow me.”
2021 Law Enforcement and Detection Hero Dog of the Year
K-9 Hansel (Millville, New Jersey) – K-9 Hansel was only 7 weeks old when he was seized from an alleged dog-fighting ring in Ontario, Canada. He never fought. He along with 20 other pit bulls were slated for euthanasia. After a 2-year-long battle with the Ontario courts, Hansel was then transferred to the Dogs Playing for Life shelter down in Florida. Throw Away Dogs project was then notified of a potential working dog candidate for their program. Hansel was accepted into the program for more training. The Millville Fire Department was looking for an accelerant detection K-9 and Hansel was a perfect fit. Hansel and I went through 16 weeks of scent training and we were later certified as an arson detection team. I believe that Hansel is the first pit bull certified in accelerant detection in the United States. Hansel can recognize 14 different ignitable liquid odors. He really is the best partner and a rock star. He was also honored as one of the dogs of the year featured on the CW network. If you Google K-9 Hansel you can see all the obstacles he has overcome and learn about his story in more detail. Thank you for reading and considering Hansel.
2021 Search and Rescue Hero Dog of the Year
Little Man (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) – All dogs are heroes, but Little Man takes it to a new level. NASAR-certified, he ranges off-leash for a specific human scent, articles or human remains. His joyous spirit and amazing work ethic have won him friends with law enforcement and SAR personnel in multiple states. But his story did not begin well. In 2013, a monster tornado ground the city of Moore, Oklahoma into rubble. The carnage was terrible. Molly Gibb, a professional SAR volunteer, worked with animal control and the American Humane Rescue team to meet the animal response needs. Five days after the storm, a tiny pit bull puppy was found buried. It was a miracle that he survived. He came to be known as Little Man. When he went unclaimed, Molly adopted him as she thought he had something special. His intelligence, drive, curiosity, athleticism and upbeat nature made him a great candidate for search and rescue work. Little Man’s trainability, determination and affinity for people epitomizes just what can make many pit bulls great working dogs. He balances SAR training and deploying with participating in youth programs and serving as a neutral helper dog for shelter and adjudicated dogs in need. For him, searching is a great game, but in reality it can mean life or death. In 2020, he found a missing traumatized assault victim alive, bringing his life full circle. He has grown from tornado survivor to hero and has fully blossomed in public service, eagerly paying it forward by helping families and communities in crisis and graciously welcoming their love in return.
During the past 11 years, Americans have cast millions of votes for thousands of dogs seeking the coveted title of American Hero Dog. The program reaches billions of 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 Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Betty White, Ariel Winter, Vivica A. Fox, Rebecca Romijn, Alison Sweeney, James Denton, Beth Stern, Faithe Herman, Marcus Scribner, Bindi Irwin, Derek Hough, Richard Marx, Katharine McPhee, Michelle Beadle, Whoopi Goldberg, Denise Richards, Lisa Vanderpump, Chelsea Handler, Martin Short, Jewel, Wilson Phillips, John Ondrasik, Carson Kressley, Miranda Lambert, Pauley Perrette, Kristen Chenoweth, Naomi Judd, Eric Stonestreet, Danica McKellar, Bailee Madison and many more.
American Humane thanks this year’s sponsors and partners, the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Hallmark Drama, American Airlines, the official airline of the American Humane Hero Dog Awards, and Lulu’s Fund for their generous support and serving as the best friends of humankind’s best friends.
About American Humane
American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit www.americanhumane.org. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter and to inquire about Hero Dog Awards sponsorship opportunities, please email Mari Harner at [email protected].
About Lois Pope
As one of America’s leading philanthropists, Lois Pope has positively impacted the lives of individuals at the local, national and international levels. She has established three separate organizations dedicated to helping those in need. These organizations are the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., Leaders In Furthering Education (LIFE), and the Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation. For more than 20 years she has been the driving force behind the Lois Pope LIFE Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, and a groundbreaking new program with American Humane in Palm Beach County. Lois Pope recently donated to American Humane several Lois Pope Rescue Vehicles. Each rescue vehicle is a 50-foot long response unit, complete with a Ford F-350 truck and trailer, which is specifically designed and outfitted to provide an array of animal emergency services and cruelty responses within a region.
On Oct. 5, 2014, Mrs. Pope saw the completion of a decades-long dream – the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated by President Obama in Washington DC. It will stand in perpetuity as a reminder to the public and legislators of the courage and sacrifices of the four million-plus living disabled veterans and all those who died before them, as well as the need to be vigilant in assuring their support and understanding the human cost of war. Through her advocacy, Oct. 5 every year will serve as a National Day of Honor for disabled veterans.
A mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother, Lois has trained for and completed five New York City Marathons.
About Hallmark Channel
Hallmark Channel, owned by Hallmark Cards, Inc., is Crown Media Family Networks’ flagship 24-hour cable television network. As the country’s leading destination for quality family entertainment, Hallmark Channel delivers on the 100-year legacy of the Hallmark brand. The network features an ambitious lineup of original content, including movies, scripted primetime series, and a lifestyle show, “Home & Family.” Additionally, Hallmark Channel is the exclusive home to world premiere presentations of the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise. Dedicated to helping viewers celebrate life’s special moments, Hallmark Channel also offers annual holiday programming franchises including Countdown to Christmas and many other seasonal offerings. Rounding out the network’s slate are some of television’s most beloved comedies and series, including The Golden Girls and Frasier.
For more information, please visit www.crownmediapress.com
To visit the network website, please visit www.hallmarkchannel.com
About American Airlines Group – Our Heroes
American Airlines Group – Our Heroes – has a longstanding tradition of serving those who serve our nation dating back to 1926. Today more than 7,000 of American’s 130,000 team members are veterans or still serving in the National Guard or Reserve component. Our initiatives include providing support to several organizations including; The Medal of Honor Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation and Airpower Foundation’s Sky Ball through mileage donations, charter flight assistance and workforce development opportunities. For more information about the ways American Airlines supports members of the military, veterans and their families, please visit aa.com/military.
About Lulu’s Fund
Lulu’s Fund, which is part of the Timothy T. Day Foundation, was founded in 2012. Named after the Day’s beloved pug Lulu, Lulu’s Fund continues the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to supporting organizations in the animal rescue community throughout the United States. Organizations that receive support from Lulu’s Fund are primarily those that rescue abused, neglected and abandoned dogs. Their focus is to treat existing medical issues, provide spay and neuter services, place dogs in safe foster homes, and ultimately find forever homes for the animals. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.tdayfoundation.org.