The 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 Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement, Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs.
Interacting with an animal can be very theraputic for humans. While other animals, such as horses and cats can be great therapy animals, dogs really excel in helping humans who are going through a difficult or troubling time. A certified Therapy Dog can make a significant contribution to many treatment programs.
Dogs began helping our military forces as early as World War I, but it wasn't until World War II that the Army established its first K-9 Corps. They serve as scouts, detection specialists for explosives, and assist on guard duty to protect US service men and women around the world. Nowadays, dogs have their own military service records and can be awarded commendations for outstanding service. It is not possible to count the number of lives military dogs have saved, sometimes at the extreme cost of their own. The Military Dog category seeks to recognize the dedication and valor of these extraordinary animals.
For the past couple of weeks I have highlighted some of the eight finalists for the 2016 Hero Dog Award, sponsored by the American Humane Association. “Gander” was nominated in the Service Dog Category, “Hooch" represents the Emerging Hero Dog category, “Judge” is an Arson Dog, and “K-9 Edo” represents Law Enforcement Dogs.
A Cairn Terrier/Yorkie mix named Mango is nominated in the Therapy Dog category. In April 2014, retired veteran Judy Walters learned about a program that was rehabilitating handicapped dogs to help veterans. The first dog in the program was Mango, who had been found with a broken back after being hit by a car. Now fitted with a wheeled cart to support her hind end, Mango was the first dog in a wheelchair to be licensed to work with veterans. When the wounded soldiers see this spunky little pup trotting along with a balloon tied to her cart, they can’t help but smile and be encouraged. It gives them a new perspective about their own injuries. Her latest project is Mango’s Freedom Wheels, raising funds so other disabled pets can get their own set of wheels. Her FaceBook page is “Mango on a Mission”. Her charity partner is Hand In Paw.
The Military Dog category is represented by Layka, a military combat dog who served in Afghanistan. In 2012, she was shot by enemy forces, taking four bullets to the shoulder. Even so, she was able to attack the shooter and protect her handler (Staff Sgt. Julian McDonald), but her right front leg had to be amputated. McDonald later adopted her, and Layka is now a member of his family. Two years ago, she was featured on the June cover of National Geographic. She was also selected to help test a special canine combat vest that would double as a harness for parachute jumps with a handler, skydiving smoothly to the ground with McDonald. Her charity partner is Combat Canines: The DDoc Foundation.
Learn more about the Hero Dog Awards by visiting the website at HeroDogAwards.org. Cast your vote for the finalist you think should be America’s Hero Dog. In my opinion it seems like an impossible choice because they are all heroes, when we’re speaking of pets.