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Hero Dog Awards 2021 - Part 3

American Humane Association

The 2021 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, Shelter Dogs, Law Enforcement and Detection Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs.

Credit American Humane Association
Henna - Guide and Hearing Dog

A Guide Dog is trained to lead, follow commands, ignore distractions, and even disobey a command that would put its human partner in danger.  A Hearing Dog is specially trained to alert its deaf owner to sounds we all take for granted.  Many are shelter animals who are determined to have the intelligence and temperament to serve as a Hearing Dog. It is a perfect blending of needs - deaf individuals have the opportunity to live an independent life, and dogs who may literally die for lack of homes are given a purpose and owners that will love and care for them.   Guide dogs and hearing dogs are living examples of the trust bond between human and animal.

Credit American Humane Association
Little Man - Search and Rescue Dog

In the world of Search and Rescue operations, dogs have a very special place.  Their keen sense of smell, excellent night vision, extremely sensitive hearing and endurance have made them crucial in efforts to locate people or animals who are missing or trapped.  They can truly be life savers!  


Over the past couple of weeks I have highlighted some of the seven finalists for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Award. “Sobee” was nominated in the Service Dog Category; “K-9 Hansel” represents the Law Enforcement and Detection category. “Summer” is a Military Dog and “Boone” is a Therapy Dog.

A German Shepherd named “Henna” is a Hearing and Guide Dog. Her owner, who is deaf and legally blind, says Henna has become her eyes and ears – in fact, an extension of her human’s body. Just one example of Henna’s professionalism was when the trailer of an 18 wheeler almost killed them both while they were crossing an intersection. The dog stopped abruptly and began backing up, staying firm and strong, as the truck missed them by just a few feet. Her owner says Henna saved her life that day, and continues to give her a sense of freedom and confidence.

Little Man, a Pit Bull (one of two that are Hero Dog finalists this year), represents the Search and Rescue category. He was discovered as a puppy in the rubble after the tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma in 2013. Molly Gibb, trained in Search and Rescue, was working with animal control and American Humane teams to locate animals in the debris. Five days after the storm she found this tiny puppy, miraculously still alive. When no one else claimed him, Molly took him home with her. She realized Little Man had just the right combination of skills and attitude to be a good candidate for search and rescue. Last year this once-rescued dog returned the favor by finding a missing traumatized assault victim alive.

Learn more about the wonderful animals nominated for the 2021 Hero Dog Award by visiting the website at HeroDogAwards.org. Cast your vote for the finalist you think should be America’s Hero Dog. Whether enriching a life or saving one, these four-legged heroes deserve our gratitude, when we’re speaking of pets.


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