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Hero Dog Awards 2020 - Part 1

American Humane Association

Credit American Humane Association
Dolly Pawton - Service Dog

The 2020 Hero Dog Awards, celebrating its Tenth Anniversary, is seeking 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 Shelter 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. 

Credit American Humane Association
K-9 Cody - Law Enforcement


Once again, the American Humane Association wants to find America’s top hero dogs. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast online, narrowing the field of several hundred entries down to just seven finalists, each in a separate category. For the next few weeks, I’ll highlight these seven extraordinary canines. And remember - you can vote online for your favorite to be named Hero Dog of the Year.

Let’s begin with Dolly Pawton, nominated in the Service Dog category. This beautiful black Labrador Retriever was trained by her owner, Amy Sherwood, to alert her to drops in her blood pressure or a heart rate that is too fast. Amy learned that when your heart rate goes up or your blood pressure drops, you give off a different smell that dogs can detect, so Amy (who is confined to a wheelchair) taught Dolly to recognize the difference and alert her. She even wrote a children’s book, “Pawsibly the Best Medicine”, to tell Dolly’s story. She says she hopes the Hero Dog Award competition will help people learn about service dogs and all the amazing things they can do. Dolly Pawton is sponsored by Lulu’s Fund.

K-9 Cody is nominated in the Law Enforcement/Arson category. She is a German Shepherd trained to detect explosives and protect U-S Embassy personnel in Iraq. She moved stateside, and worked at the Mall of America. What made her stand out was her phenomenal ability to detect explosives, combined with her calm and even loving personality. Nowadays, she is helping to safeguard events sponsored by the LPGA and the NBA, as well as assisting local police agencies with bomb threats. She still loves people and will lean against someone’s leg hoping for a little scratch behind the ear.

For more information about the Hero Dog Awards, and the seven finalists competing for this year’s top spot, visit the website at 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.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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