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Meet the Winner of the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®

Congratulations to America’s New Top Dog: Therapy Dog Maverick

WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, November 10, 2023American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, unveiled the winner of the 13th annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards. Maverick, a 150-pound European Blue Great Dane in the Therapy Dogs category—which is sponsored by The Brady Hunter Foundation—has clutched the coveted title. The American Humane Hero Dog Awards is a nationwide competition that searches for and recognizes America’s standout dogs in five categories: Therapy Dogs; Service and Guide Dogs; Military Dogs; Law Enforcement and First Responder Dogs; and Shelter Dogs.

Beginning in April, Americans nominated hundreds of inspiring dogs from across the country and from there, five semi-finalists in each of the five categories were chosen to meet the American public. After a competitive public voting process, the field of 25 was whittled down to five four-legged finalists. The winner, therapy dog Maverick, was then selected by a blue-ribbon judging panel.

Maverick and the four other finalists were honored at the 13th annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards® and Gala in Palm Beach on November 10, a star-studded awards show hosted by Christie Brinkley and Carson Kressley. The event was presented by Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and will be nationally televised on A&E on Nov. 26 and fyi on Thanksgiving Day.

“We are so excited to name Maverick as American Humane’s 2023 Hero Dog, a distinction that is well-deserved for him and his handler Kelly,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane. “The duo has worked tirelessly to bring comfort and solace to our nation’s military heroes through the United Service Organizations (USO), all while they both were facing their own internal battles against cancer. It’s these types of incredible stories about sacrifice, perseverance, and compassion that this award aims to spotlight.”

“The American Humane 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 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.”

2023 Hero Dog Maverick and his handler Kelly Brownfield first met in 2016. There was an instant bond with the then 12-week-old puppy, who immediately ran up to her and nuzzled into her chest as if he was meant to be there. Kelly, who had previous therapy dogs, spent the first year rigorously training Maverick, which helped him pass his therapy dog certification test with flying colors in 2017.

Since then, the duo has invested their time and talents with the USO, helping to bring comfort to military families. Maverick’s unconditional love uplifts the spirits of the military community stationed at the Fort Leonard Wood post in Missouri, where he supports service members on suicide watch, escorts children to military funerals for their parents, and helps men and women cope with trauma, injuries, and stress. Kelly and Maverick have completed 55 “special mission” requests this year alone.

According to Kelly, Maverick’s superpower is his ability to comfort people and ease their souls. He has an intuitive knack for immediately finding the person in a room who is feeling stressed or emotional and uses touch to calm them. Maverick’s go-to move? Placing his paw on the person he’s comforting.

Maverick has also been by Kelly’s side throughout her ongoing battle with cancer—a disease that Maverick himself has successfully fought. Leading up to her diagnosis, Maverick had been especially clingy, often laying on top of Kelly and placing his head near hers. Her oncologist believes that Maverick could smell that something was wrong and was worried about her. Kelly has begun ongoing chemotherapy, which will be completed in April 2024. She asserts that her cancer “can take pieces of me, but not all of me.” She says her work serving the community with Maverick helps keep things in perspective and reminds her to always be grateful.


The four other finalist dogs include:

Buda (Oceanside, California): Military working dog Buda—a four-year-old German shorthaired pointer—bravely serves our country as one of only eighteen certified explosives-detection canines in the U.S. Coast Guard. Buda and his canine handler, Maritime Enforcement Specialist Chase Leamer, work together to protect their local community both on the water and on land. Since graduating from his elite training program in 2021, Buda has participated in over 185 operational deployments and engagements. His work includes responding to bomb threats, performing safety sweeps of sea vessels, providing security at events like Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, and more. This extraordinary hero dog is even trained to be hoisted in and out of helicopters.

Poppy (Columbia, South Carolina): Law enforcement canine Poppy—a five-year-old black Labrador—courageously protects students and faculty as an invaluable member of the University of South Carolina (USC) Police Department. Poppy is an award-winning explosives and firearms detection dog who serves alongside her handler, Sgt. Mark Tevepaugh. Poppy is a regular fixture at school and community events, providing security sweeps, crowd screening, and safety presentations to help empower students. She can also be found roaming the sprawling USC campus, where she brings smiles and comfort to stressed and homesick college students. When this hero dog is off duty, Poppy loves to spend time at home with her handler’s son.

Raina (Perkasie, Pennsylvania): Emerging hero shelter dog Raina—a 13-year-old Australian shepherd—came into this world blind, deaf, and with a contagious sense of joy. Her owner Kristen Strouse adopted Raina from a shelter when she was six months old. Ever since, this 13-year-old hero dog has served as a beautiful advocate for people and pets with special needs. Raina and Kristen are passionate about using public education, awareness events, and fundraisers to help rescue blind and deaf dogs, who often struggle to find their forever homes. At home, Raina offers comfort and inspiration to Kristen after an autoimmune deficiency forced her into early retirement. Her owner credits Raina with saving her life and keeping her going during that traumatic transition. After a long life, Raina sadly passed away in October.

Moxie (Ballwin, Missouri): Lifesaving service dog Moxie—a five-year-old mini goldendoodle—helped her handler, Katie Harris, find hope and purpose again when a rare disease robbed her of her ability to walk, leaving her suicidal. Moxie’s unconditional love and dedication have since helped Katie get through countless hospital visits, surgeries, and painful medical episodes. She provides invaluable assistance on a daily basis, performing tasks like picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors, and alerting her handler to low blood pressure and other medical crises. This hero dog lives up to her name, bringing spirit and courage to everything she does.


During the past 13 years, Americans have cast millions of votes for more than 1,000 dogs, all seeking the coveted title of American Humane 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.

Thank you to our sponsors, including the Lois Pope Life Foundation, Lulu’s Fund, American Airlines, the MITER Foundation, the Brady Hunter Foundation, and Ethos Veterinary Health. Without them, the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog Awards would not be possible. For more information about the 2023 American Humane Hero Dog Awards, visit For more information on future sponsorship opportunities, email [email protected].


About American Humane:
American Humane is the United States’ first national humane organization and the world’s largest certifier of animal welfare, overseeing the humane treatment of more than one billion animals across the globe each year. Founded in 1877, American Humane has been First to Serve™ the cause of animals and for 145 years has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in the humane movement. For more information or to support our lifesaving work, please visit, follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and subscribe to our channel on YouTube for the latest breaking news and features about the animals with whom we share our Earth.

About Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation:
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. Among her numerous philanthropic and humanitarian achievements, she is the driving force behind the Lois Pope LIFE Center, home to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami School of Medicine; The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington DC, the nation’s first and only permanent tribute to the four million-plus living disabled American veterans and all those who have died; the Lois Pope Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration Research at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and Lois’ Food4Kids Program at the Palm Beach County Food Bank. 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.

Through her advocacy, Oct. 5 every year has been designated as a National Day of Honor for disabled veterans. A mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother, she has trained for and completed five New York City Marathons.

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 9,000 of American’s 130,000 team members are veterans or are still serving in the National Guard or Reserve components. Our initiatives include providing financial and in-kind support to several organizations, to include The Medal of Honor Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Honor Flight Network and the USO among many others. American supports those who have served our nation through mileage donations, providing charter flights for special missions and workforce development opportunities. For more information about the ways American Airlines supports members of the military, veterans, and their families, please visit

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

About the Brady Hunter Foundation:
The Brady Hunter Foundation is a leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization operated by a group of philanthropists, humanitarians and animal lovers committed to ending animal cruelty, protecting wildlife, and making a positive impact in the lives of children. The Brady Hunter Charitable Fund was established in 2022, with The Brady Hunter Foundation formally launched shortly thereafter in early 2023. BHF is dedicated to creating sanctuaries all over the world to save animals from endangerment, abuse and neglect, while also recognizing the importance of uplifting children and providing them with opportunities for a better future. For more information about The Brady Hunter Foundation, please visit

About MITER Brands:

MITER Brands™ is a residential window and door manufacturer that produces a leading portfolio of window and door brands for the new construction and replacement segments. Through MI Windows and Doors and Milgard Windows and Doors, MITER Brands is one of the largest suppliers of precision-built and energy-efficient windows and doors throughout the United States servicing thousands of dealers. For more information, visit, or

About Ethos Veterinary Health:

Ethos Veterinary Health is a unique community of cutting-edge specialty and emergency veterinary hospitals with a shared vision of revolutionizing veterinary medicine. All 145 hospitals are united by a dedication to compassionately serving pets and people. With a focus on innovation, world-class medicine, and unparalleled care, Ethos brings hope to pets and people during their times of greatest need. For more information, visit

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