Every year for the past four years The American Humane Association has held the Hero Dog Awards to honor the canines that do really important and meaningful work.
The finalists in each category have finally been announced, and voting is open till September! You can vote once a day until September 7 at noon EST. Only one of the eight finalists will win the title, as well as a $5,000 donation to the dog’s charity partner. This year’s crop includes a pup formerly abused in a puppy mill that helps rescue current puppy mill pups, a firefighter dog, a lost pet tracking Bloodhound and numerous therapy dogs that help everyone from children to veterans.
The awards’ presenting sponsor, Lois Pope, says of the event “it is an honor to support an effort to recognize the valor of our ‘best friends’…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.”
Winning Category: Emerging Hero Dogs
Charity Partner: New Leash on Life
Little Harley had an incredibly rough start in life. He spent his first 10 years living in a tiny cage in a puppy mill, which left him with more ailments than any animal should ever have to endure— rotting teeth, a diseased heart, a broken tail, a fused spine, deformed legs with gnarled toes and worst of all, a missing eye from his cage being power washed with him in it. Harley was saved, healed and is now a mascot for every dog still stuck in puppy mills. His campaign, “Harley to the Rescue,” has saved and cared for over 500 other dogs over the past two years. Harley has a soft touch and goes on rescue missions to communicate with the sad and scared dogs and to help them know they are being saved and going somewhere better! Those who work with him say that he is keenly aware of what is happening and always does his best to reassure the dogs being rescued. On top of working in the field, Harley is also a figurehead for the anti-puppy mill movement, traveling to events and schools to make public appearances and educate people on the horrors of dog mills. Harley won the title in the “Emerging Hero” category and you can click here to vote for him to win Hero Dog of the Year.
Winning Category: Service Dogs
Charity Partner: Dogs on Deployment
Five years ago, when Captain Jason Haag (USMC, Ret.) was diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury after coming home from two combat tours in the Middle East, his wife convinced him to contact K9s for Warriors, which is an organization that trains and matches up service dogs with veterans. That’s how he met Axel and it changed his life for the better. You can vote for Axel here.
“In combat, every soldier is paired up with a battle buddy. These days, my battle buddy isn’t another Marine. It’s Axel. Day in and day out, he’s by my side, ensuring that I’m in a constant state of peace and not fear,” says Haag. “When I met Axel, he was one week away from being put down, sleeping on a shelter floor. And I was sleeping in my basement with a gun under my pillow. Now I share a bed with a big and furry security blanket. And he’s a heck of a lot softer.”
Winning Category: Service Dogs
Charity Partner: K9s4COPS
Chris Alberini’s K9 Dax saved him from being shot. They were searching a home for a suspect with a suspended driver’s license and an arrest warrant. After calling to the man and telling him to surrender, they searched the house and Dax led Alberini to an attic door. When the suspect once again did not respond or surrender, Alberini hoisted Dax into the attic first, where he found and bit the leg of the suspect. The suspect being distracted by Dax allowed Alberini the opportunity to wrestle the shotgun away from the suspect and shoot him twice with his service weapon. They later learned that the suspect had texted both his attorney and girlfriend about killing police, and he had been waiting in the attic, prepared to shoot any cop who tried to arrest him. If it hadn’t been for Dax saving his life, the situation could have gone very badly. Vote for Dax here!
Winning Category: Guide/Hearing Dogs
Charity Partner: Guide Dog Users Inc.
Chara, originally trained as a signal service dog, ended up developing unparalleled abilities of intuition and alertness all on her own. When her handler fractured her hand during a work accident in 2008, she developed a neurological condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy type II with Dystonia. Soon after, Chara developed the ability to alert her handler 15-45 minutes prior to an impending myoclonic dystonic attack. During an attack, muscles in the face and larynx can seize and if breathing or swallowing is affected by it, immediate emergency medical attention is needed. Additionally, Chara prevented her handler’s newborn son from succumbing to SIDS by alerting her that something was seriously wrong when her child stopped breathing (her handler is hearing impaired and could not hear the monitor going off). These self-developed guardian angel skills mean that Chara watches over all of her loved ones with constant vigilance, and if you like the sound of this you can vote for her here.
Winning Category: Military Dogs
Charity Partner: America’s VetDogs
Back when Sgt. Rambo was on active duty in the Marine Corps from 2011-2012, he was an explosive detection MWD who completed 994 hours of training and 622 missions on base and in his community. In 2012, he sustained a shoulder injury that necessitated a left leg amputation, but he hasn’t let that stop him! He has since become the figurehead for three different organizations: he is the mascot of Alamo Honor Flight, Gizmo’s Gift (a nonprofit that helps support families that adopt retired working dogs), and he’s the official ambassador for the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act. He visits nursing homes to comfort residents with dementia and visits youth groups to work with children with special needs. He supports great causes, from human and animal rights, military and veteran groups, so if you’d like to vote for him click here.
Winning Category: Search and Rescue Dogs
Charity Partner: National Search Dog Alliance
Glory does a job that no one ever wants to have to hire her for, but are very grateful for when they need her…she tracks lost pets! This eight-year-old Bloodhound is certified and has helped hundreds of families either find, or find out what happened to, their beloved lost pets. She works in all conditions, no matter how difficult, and even in extreme temperatures. She even once found a Pomeranian after it had been missing nine days, 60 miles away from home and without food and water, but alive, under crates in an outdoor factory. Vote for Glory and her amazing nose here.
Hudson the Railroad Puppy
Winning Category: Therapy Dogs
Charity Partner: Hand in Paw
Hudson also had a rough start in life — at 3-weeks-old he and his two siblings were found with their paws nailed to railroad tracks in Albany, NY. He and his sister Pearl had lifesaving surgeries (unfortunately their third littermate, Carina, did not make it) that involved paw amputation, and they became known as The Railroad Puppies. Soon after, Hudson was one of the first dogs in New York to get a prosthetic paw, and now he visits schools, hospices, hospitals, and adult daycare facilities as a therapy dog. He works hard to educate people and spread awareness about animal cruelty and overcoming adversity. You can vote for Hudson the Railroad Puppy here.
Winning Category: Arson Dogs
Charity Partner: Project Paws Alive, Inc.
There are two nominees named Glory in the running this year, and they are both expert sniffers! This one is a certified accelerant detection canine, which means she is trained to walk through buildings that have been on fire and detect traces of hydrocarbon based accelerants, which helps determine if the fire was accident or arson. Glory can determine whether a fire was set intentionally or not within a few minutes…a process that takes weeks and multiple investigators without her. Glory also can sniff out if any of the firefighters or paramedics she works with are stressed, and help them deal with their tough jobs. Additionally, she visits clubs, schools and other organizations to educate people about fire safety, prevention and arson awareness. To vote for Glory, click here.
There you have it, the eight finalists for The American Humane Association’s 2015 Hero Dog Awards 2015! You can vote every day, so make sure you like their FB page to get reminders and keep abreast of related news.