The 2017 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories: Service Dogs, Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, and Emerging Hero Dogs.
The Service Dog category includes animals that assist people with disabilities other than sight and hearing. Most have received special training.
Law Enforcement dogs include what we often think of as police dogs, animals specially trained to patrol, search buildings, track criminals, and to detect drugs, narcotics and explosive devices. Arson dogs are animals trained to sniff out accelerants that may have been used to start a fire. Every year hundreds of lives (and billions of dollars in property) are lost as a result of fires that were set intentionally. The dog works with a handler who is a law enforcement officer trained to investigate fire scenes.
For the seventh year, the American Humane Association wants to find America’s top hero dogs. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast online, narrowing the field down to just seven finalists, each a separate category. In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight these seven extraordinary canines. And you will have the opportunity vote online for your favorite to be named Hero Dog of the Year.
Let’s begin with Atlas the Wonderdog, a German Shepherd nominated in the Service Dog category. His human, disabled Marine veteran Kenny Bass, came home from Iraq struggling with PTSD. At one point he was taking more than 30 pills a day – until Atlas came into his life. Trained to sense changes in Kenny and redirect his focus, this special four-legged hero helps one of America’s heroes to be an active part of his children’s lives. Atlas the Wonderdog is also now the face of The Battle Buddy Foundation, which is his Charity Partner. His Facebook page is “Original Battle Buddy.”
Ice, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, is nominated in the Law Enforcement/Arson category. He and his human partner work for the U.S. Forest Service in California. Last year they were in the process of apprehending a suspect when Ice was stabbed twice in the chest and also in the muzzle. Despite his serious injuries, Ice restrained the suspect until officers could take him into custody. When they realized the extent of his injuries, they carried him almost a mile to a suitable landing site where a helicopter picked him up and flew him to a veterinary hospital for surgery. Ice is healthy now, back on duty, part of the team. His charity partner is Throw Away Dogs.
To learn more about the Hero Dog Awards, and the seven 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 – and sometimes safer - in so many ways, when you’re speaking of pets.