The 2016 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of eight categories: Service Dog, Emerging Hero Dog, Law Enforcement Dog, Arson Dog, Therapy Dog, Military Dog, Search and Rescue Dog, and Guide/Hearing Dog.
The Service Dog category includes animals that assist people with disabilities other than sight and hearing. Most have received special training.
The Emerging Hero category honors the partnership that often develops between human and dog. Some of these animals are trained in such areas as detection of diseases such as cancer, others are just pets who, without any special training, instinctively assist their human companions, and some are overcomers who have triumphed over adversity in an extraordinary way.
Once again, earlier this year the American Humane Association set out to find America’s top hero dogs. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast online, narrowing the field down to just eight finalists, each a separate category. In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight these eight extraordinary canines. And you will have the opportunity to join others in voting online for your favorite to be named Hero Dog of the Year.
Let’s begin with Gander, nominated in the Service Dog category. A women’s prison program rescued him and put him in an obedience training class. He did so well, he became a service dog and was teamed up with Lon Hodge, a veteran who suffers with PTSD. Now they travel around the country raising awareness veteran issues and money for charities. They are known for their PACKS – Planned Acts of Community Kindness. Gander is the first mixed breed dog to win the American Kennel Club’s Award for Canine Excellence. His charity partner is Canine Companions for Independence. His Facebook page is “Gander: Service Dog.”
Hooch represents the Emerging Hero Dog category. He is a French Mastiff that suffered horrific abuse, having his ears cut off and his tongue removed. Without a tongue, a dog can’t eat or drink. His rescuers thought he would need a feeding tube to survive, but then they discovered he could be hand-fed. He works with Zach Skow of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue in their Miracle Mutts division, helping autistic, abused and special needs children. He is patient, loving, gentle and the poster dog for bravery. Hooch’s charity partner is Pets for Patriots.
To learn more about the Hero Dog Awards, and the eight finalists competing for this year’s top spot, visit the website at HeroDogAwards.org. While you’re there, cast your vote for the one you think should be America’s next Hero Dog. It’s a great way to celebrate these special animals who make our lives better in so many ways, when you’re speaking of pets.