I was so inspired on Saturday night at The 3rd Annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. Hearing all of the stories of amazing dogs doing heroic things was such a treat. And a pit bull, Elle, was named top American Hero Dog for her work helping children learn how to read, teaching them dog safety and ending prejudice against so-called “bully breeds.” As a result, Elle’s charity partner, Hand in Paw, will receive $6500 in financial support from the Hero Dog Awards. The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Victoria Stilwell, Kristin Chenoweth, Candy Spelling, Miranda Lambert, Dr. Marty Becker, Michelle Forbes, Megyn Price, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Blake Koch, Tara Harper, Jerry Means, Nancy Otte, Michael Hingson, Shara Strand, Maria Milito, and Ashley Rhodes-Courter.
The sold-out, star-studded event was hosted by Joey Lawrence, who was accompanied by animal-loving celebs including Betty White, Jennifer Coolidge, Esai Morales, Ryan O’Neal, Naomi Judd, Pauley Perrette, Lisa Vanderpump, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Bailee Madison, Rico Rodriguez, Brian Baumgartner, Megan Blake, Max Carver, Torrey DeVitto, Matt Leinart, Lauren Potter, Eric Christian Olsen, Ben Savage, Austin Stowell, Chef Michael Voltaggio, Danielle Fishell, Lori Loughlin, Daphne Zuniga, Victoria Stillwell and many more. Popular TV stars Jenni Pulos and Lisa Vanderpump served as red carpet hosts. Miranda Lambert was honored for helping animals in need through her animal advocacy organization called MuttNation Foundation.
All here are all of the canine finalists as well as their inspiring stories.
EMERGING HERO DOGS CATEGORY (sponsored by Paul Mitchell Schools)
WINNER: Cassidy (Midvale, UT) — Three years ago a good Samaritan pulled over to pick up a pile of trash on the side of the highway. Under the garbage was a skinny, matted, scared little black dog who had been hit by a car. Cassidy was rushed to the emergency vet where his front leg was amputated. Sheltie Rescue of Utah took him into their program and Cassidy found his forever home with Kathy. But Cassidy’s amazing journey did not stop there; he is an advocate for special needs rescues and works to show that every life has value. He is proof that dogs are not disposable. Cassidy and his mom also do presentations for children about disabilities, acceptance and how everyone is different, special and has something positive to give to the world. Cassidy visits rehabilitation centers and is living proof that there is always hope and that anything is possible. Despite everything he has been through he has a very loving and trusting nature. He snuggles into each person’s arms and shows them that he is perfect the way he is and that they too are perfect the way they are. (Charity Partner: Sheltie Rescue of Utah)
GUIDE DOG CATEGORY
WINNER: Jingles (Amsterdam, NY) — Jingles is a Lab/Golden cross guide dog who works as part of a heroic team with a diabetic alert canine to help Karen Ann, who is multiply disabled. Jingles is joy unbounded, full of exuberance, and works hard to guide Karen Ann safely in every situation. Crossing streets Jingles maintains focus in the face of blaring horns, screeching brakes, and quiet hybrid vehicles that sneak up out of nowhere. She’s adept at avoiding kids on scooters, people bustling by, construction barriers and the distraction of yapping pet dogs on flexi leads. In stores she steers Karen Ann clear of day-dreaming shoppers darting out of aisles with loaded carts, and guides her safely to where she wants to go. Jingles was trained to work on the left side of her partner but since Karen Ann is unable to work a dog on that side, Jingles underwent additional training and now she is Karen Ann’s “right hand” girl. Jingles is unusual among guide dogs as she’s trained to work in tandem with a second service dog. Together they offer a profoundly special gift to Karen Ann, offering her independence, safety and dignity. Karen Ann says both dogs are her heroes, but “Jingles is absolutely a one of a kind guide dog.” (Charity Partner: The Seeing Eye)
HEARING DOG CATEGORY (Sponsored by MRB Productions)
WINNER: Lola (Bellingham, Washington) – Lola, a dog rescued from abuse and neglect, is paying it forward—daily helping and rescuing her partner Charlene, who is deaf. Charlene relies on Lola for so many things, connecting her to the world of sound around her. Lola is her alarm clock, her exercise companion, and her reason to move beyond depression and self-imposed isolation. Lola expands her activities, reminding Charlene to improve, not compromise, her quality of life. Whenever the oven-timer buzzes, the phone rings, or someone knocks at the door—Lola alerts her and insists on Charlene’s paying attention to the world around her. She’s always game for going to the ballpark, hospital visits, grocery store, rides on airplanes – even canoeing. Lola is a gem of a partner; she lightens Charlene’s spirit as a source of courage and peace. When Charlene is alone, she helps her cope with the impact of hearing loss. Says Charlene, “Let the trumpets blow, fireworks blast, and the parade begin—my hearing dog Lola is a life-saver—an unsung heroine who gives her best daily to fulfill a higher purpose and for whom I’ll be forever grateful.” (Charity Partner: Dogs for the Deaf)
LAW ENFORCEMENT/ARSON DOG CATEGORY (sponsored by State Farm®)
WINNER: K9 Lakota (Locust Grove, Georgia) — K9 Lakota served alongside Officer Travis Fox for less than four years but made remarkable achievements in his short career, among them more than 80 apprehensions, 28 drug seizures, $60,000 seized, six vehicle seizures, the recovery of stolen property, and the seizure of $60,000. K9 Lakota’s career was ended prematurely in route to a home invasion call when Officer Fox and K9 Lakota ended up in a serious car accident. The accident split the car in two, ejecting both the officer and the dog from the car. K9 Lakota was not expected to live but his strong spirit fought on and after four surgeries (with more expected in his future), he is enjoying life in retirement. His work and his will to fight and live have shown his heroic side and he has brought people all over the world together for his cause. His story is now being used to help change laws for Law Enforcement Officer K9s so that they are better protected by their departments in case they are injured in the line of duty. K9 Lakota has been a true hero both in the line of duty and in retirement. (Charity Partner: K9s4COPs)
MILITARY DOG CATEGORY (sponsored by Royal Canin®)
WINNER: CWD Carlos EDD (Colorado Springs, CO) — Explosive Detection Dog CWD Carlos retired in 2011 at the age of eight, after protecting U.S. and ISAF forces in continuous deployment for nearly five years. CWD Carlos, who worked with the U.S. Army’s 3rd & 4th Infantry Divisions in Baghdad for two and a half years, was then transferred to Kandahar in 2009 to work in direct support of U.S. Special Forces on the front lines. Carlos is credited with finds on missions that saved the lives of many American soldiers. As Carlos aged, he was transferred to work with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan that was established by the United Nations Security Council. Sadly, upon retirement Carlos seems to have been the victim of neglect. To this day, Carlos still carries ligature mark scars on his back legs from hobble-style restraints. Fortunately for this hero, he was reclaimed, eventually adopted by the Ridpath family, and got a “Freedom Flight” HOME! Carlos continues to bring awareness to the contributions of all working dogs. A warrior with a zest for life in spite of his challenging medical issues, CWD Carlos is a true hero who saved uncounted lives while deployed, attends events, visits schools, and is an inspiration to everyone he meets. (Charity Partner: Military Working Dog Adoptions)
SEARCH AND RESCUE DOG CATEGORY
WINNER: John D (Little Rock, AR) — John D is a Search and Rescue dog, human cancer detective and all-around humanitarian. When needed, John D is called in to find the missing in kidnappings, disasters, drownings, and other emergencies. One day, John D was called in for a river search. Moments after he arrived, a woman approached and asked to pet him. She hugged him and whispered in his ear, “YOU are my only hope. Please go find my child. Please bring my baby back to me.” There was an immediate bond between them. John D then boarded a boat and went out on the river. For hours he searched. John D was drawn to the water, completely focused on it and began dipping his nose at the same spot. When the boat returned to shore, this hero dog leapt off the boat, running straight to the woman who had greeted him. He leaned hard against her. She bent down and hugged him. When she lifted her face from John D’s fur, there were tears. John D had found her son who had drowned two days before. John D also works to save lives by using his remarkable scenting ability to advance the use of canines in detecting ovarian cancer and other cancers, which may help save a mother, daughter or sister from a devastating disease. John D’s determination to work, despite his own severe hip dysplasia, provides inspiration to others. Once a rescue dog saved by people, now John D spends his life helping and saving them. (Charity Partner: The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve)
SERVICE DOG CATEGORY
WINNER: SD Bronx (Brunswick, GA) — Can you imagine having your whole world change? Can you imagine having no friends? For 14-year-old Christopher those two questions were his reality. At the age of nine, Christopher began having seizures and was spending most of his childhood in the hospital trying to get answers. The answers were coming, but none of them were good. The doctors found out what was causing the seizures and they tried to use medicine to control them – one medicine after another. The seizures made it impossible for Christopher to attend school and other kids no longer wanted to be his friend – they were afraid of the seizures. Even Christopher was too afraid to sleep in his bedroom and didn’t like leaving the house – the seizures had taken his childhood from him. Enter SD Bronx! Suddenly Christopher was not alone in his terrifying fight. His hero dog would tell him when seizures were about to happen and quickly alert others to help. SD Bronx stayed by his side at all doctor visits, and was there when Christopher lost half his field of vision, stepping into another role and working with Christopher and his sight cane. The challenges were hard but hero dog SD Bronx has helped Christopher to do more than he ever dreamed he could. (Charity Partner: Texas Hearing and Service Dogs)
Each of the eight finalists received $1,500 to be donated to one of American Humane Association’s charity partners. Elle won an additional $5,000 for her charity. In this way, more heroes may be nurtured.
Hero Dog Awards Premieres on Hallmark Channel October 30, 2013 at 8PM/7PM Central. And look for my video interviews this week on RCR!