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Hero Dog Awards, Part 3

Cole the Deaf Dog  - Therapy.jpeg
American Humane Association
Hero Dog Awards
Cole the Deaf Dog - Therapy Dog

The past two weeks, I told you about five of the seven finalists for this year’s American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.  “Recon” is nominated in the Service Dog category. “Keb” is a Search and Rescue dog. “K-9 Riggs” represents the Law Enforcement and Detection category.  Kinley, a yellow Lab, is a Guide dog.  The Shelter Dog (appropriately) is mixed breed dog named Ethan.

     Iiken, a black Lab, is a Military dog. Trained as a Specialized Search Dog, he has been deployed all over the world, including two tours in Afghanistan, where he was wounded, flown back to the U.S. for surgery and rehab, and then re-deployed.  He has saved countless lives during his service to his country.  He retired from the military several years ago, and is now a celebrity in his home state of Arizona, where he works as an advocate for medical benefits for retired Military Working Dogs. 

     Cole, the Therapy Dog, is a Pit Bull.  Born deaf, he was abandoned and in an animal shelter, labeled as a “special needs” dog.  A local elementary school music teacher found him at the shelter and, looking past his deafness, saw “potential”. He shared with his class Cole’s story about not being adopted just because he was born “different”.  The students related to that, and to Cole.  So, the teacher trained him to be a certified therapy dog. In addition to schools, he visits veterans homes, and hospice facilities.  Cole’s mission is to encourage people to look past his breed and his disability, and instead to see the possibilities.  

For more information about the Hero Dog Awards, and the seven finalists competing for this year’s top spot, visit the website at and cast your vote for the one you think should be America’s next Hero Dog.  But hurry, because time is running out.  Whether a saving life or enriching 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.