They all deserve it, right? You can vote now through Aug. 24 for your favorite pup to win the grand prize in the 2016 American Humane Association (AHA) Hero Dog Awards, presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation.
The awards “celebrate the important role dogs play in our lives,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, AHA president and CEO. “The American public and our special judging panel now have an extraordinarily tough task ahead of them in determining who our top dog will be because all are worthy winners.”
That’s for sure. Over the past five years, millions of votes have been cast for nearly a thousand dogs competing for the award. The program reaches more than 1 billion people each year.
The Hero Dog Awards ceremony will be held in Los Angeles on Sept. 10. The 2016 grand prize winner will be announced during the ceremony, which will be dedicated to Harley, the winner of the 2015 Hero Dog Award. Harley, a 15-year-old Chihuahua who spent the first 10 years of his life in a puppy-mill cage before becoming a “spokesdog” against these cruel facilities, died in March.
To help hero dogs everywhere, AHA will donate $2,500 to each finalist’s charity partner, and an additional $5,000 to the grand prize winner’s charity partner.
Founded in 1877, AHA was the first national humane organization in the U.S. and is the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals.
It’s still a bit early to mark your calendar, but the 2016 Hero Dog Awards will be televised on the Hallmark Channel in late October.
2016 AHA Hero Dog Awards Finalists
Arson Dogs: Judge
As an arson K-9 with the Allentown Fire Department in Pennsylvania, 7-year-old Judge, a Labrador Retriever, has worked 275 fire scenes over the past five years. The evidence Judge discovered has led to many arrests and civil penalties for insurance fraud cases, and the number of arson fires in the city has dropped nearly 53 percent. Judge is currently participating in a pilot program to provide autistic children with lifesaving information.
Emerging Hero Dogs: Hooch
This category honors ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things. Hooch, a French Mastiff, has badly cropped ears, a broken tail — and no tongue. It was probably removed so he could be a bait dog. Zach Skow, of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue in Tehachapi, Calif., adopted Hooch from a shelter where the skittish dog had refused to eat or drink. Skow nursed Hooch back to health by hand-feeding him. Hooch is now a therapy dog with Marley’s Mutts’ Miracle Mutts, helping autistic, abused and special-needs kids realize they can overcome any obstacle.
Guide/Hearing Dogs: Hook
Ten-year-old, 12-pound Hook is a hearing dog for his handler. As the two walked across train tracks in Sacramento, Calif., the woman couldn’t hear an oncoming train. Hook began jumping on her, alerting her to the train and saving her life. He is always by the side of his handler, who’s a family therapist. Whenever her patients are upset, Hook will jump into their laps to comfort them. Hook also chased off an intruder who broke into the office.
Law Enforcement Dogs: Roo
K9 Roo is a ballistics/bomb dog with the Boston Police Department. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Roo searched for secondary devices and was the only police dog there for the capture of Dzokhar Tsarnaev. During his career — Roo is retiring this year — he recovered 12 firearms (three had been used in homicides) and more than 300 shell casings involved in shootings. Roo answered at least 200 calls to investigate suspicious packages. When he’s not working, Roo visits children in hospitals and performs demonstrations at community events.
Click here to vote for Roo.
Military Dogs: Layka
In 2012, as Layka’s team fired on an enemy compound in Afghanistan, rifle fire was returned from the compound. Layka was sent inside to look for combatants and explosives. She was hit with four rounds from an AK-47 in her right shoulder. Layka was rushed to a location where medics worked on her, and then flown to a base where her right front leg was amputated. After additional surgeries, Layka was medically retired from service three months later.
Search-and-Rescue Dogs: Kobuk
Kobuk, a trained and certified member of the non-profit Maine Search and Rescue Dogs team, found a 77-year-old woman suffering from diabetes and dementia who had been lost in the woods for over two days without food, water or her medications. Running almost a quarter mile into the woods, Kobuk spotted the woman and then ran back to alert his handler, and ran back with him into the woods to rescue the woman in time to save her life.
Service Dogs: Gander
Gander, saved from a Colorado shelter and trained by a women’s prison program, is now a service dog and was the first mixed breed to win the American Kennel Club’s Award for Canine Excellence (ACE). He and his handler travel the country to raise awareness of PTSD, veteran suicide, service dogs, and people with visible and invisible disabilities. They have helped raise a million dollars for veterans’ groups, veterans, service dog charities and people in need.
Therapy Dogs: Mango
As a stray, Mango was hit by a car, paralyzing her rear legs. She was going to be euthanized by a shelter when Emma’s Cleft Palate Chihuahua Rescue stepped in. Mango is now a therapy dog for her dog mom, a veteran. They participate in the Emma’s Rescue Reserve program, in which paralyzed dogs work with disabled veterans, showing them that if a small dog in a wheelchair can overcome her handicap, then so can they. Mango’s Freedom Wheels, named in her honor, has donated over 150 custom-built wheelchairs to help other animals become mobile.
Photos via Facebook