Judge (Allentown, PA) – Allentown Fire Department Arson K9 Judge is a seven-year old yellow Labrador retriever who has been in service since early 2011. His handler says Judge is a more vocal than the other arson dogs, but he attributes it to Judge’s outgoing personality and drive to work. Judge is a well-rounded K-9 who thrives in three major areas: investigation, deterrence, and education. As an investigator, Judge has worked more than 275 fire scenes and during that time, evidence he has found has led to multiple criminal arrests and civil penalties for insurance fraud cases. As a deterrent, the numbers speak for themselves – the number of arson fires has dropped 52.7 percent since Judge has been in service with the City of Allentown. As an educator, Judge has been in more than 500 fire safety programs and demonstrations for crime watch groups, specialty dog shows, elementary and high school programs, and everything in between. He is now part of a pilot program with autistic children to provide them with lifesaving information. He has been instrumental in making the entire Lehigh Valley and neighboring communities more aware of fire and life safety.
Emerging Hero Dogs category (sponsored by Merial, maker of NexGard® (afoxalaner) Chewables)
Hooch (Tehachapi, CA) – Hooch is a French Mastiff with badly cropped ears, a broken tail, no tongue, and a bright spirit. Zach Skow, of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, learned about him from a shelter in Bakersfield, and was told that the dog would not eat or drink, and would instead thrash his food and water bowls around “like a maniac.” He was 35 pounds underweight – starving, dehydrated, and severely malnourished. Never thinking to check for a missing tongue, they thought he might have a broken or dislocated jaw that was causing his behavior. When taken to the vet, he was sedated to ready him for x-rays, and the gruesome discovery was made: Hooch’s tongue had been savagely removed at its base, likely in an attempt to prime him for the role of a bait dog. Hooch kept removing his feeding tube, but he took well to being hand-fed. He tilts his head back while his owner takes a handful of food and places it in the back of Hooch’s throat, letting gravity do the rest. Hooch stands for overcoming adversity, bravery and living in the moment. He spends many hours with Marley’s Mutts’ Miracle Mutts division serving as a therapy dog. He works with autistic, abused and special needs children. Hooch shows patience and kindness, is proof that anything can be overcome, and is a great mascot for bravery.
Guide/Hearing Dogs category (sponsored by Clover Stornetta Farms, the official “Mootastic” sponsor of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)
Hook (Sacramento, CA) – Hook is a 12-pound, 10-year-old hearing dog and goes almost everywhere with his handler. Three years ago the pair was in downtown Sacramento crossing a street. A train was coming that she could not hear because of her impairment. As she was approaching and crossing the track Hook started jumping on her and she did not know why; she could not figure out what he wanted. Then, she stopped and saw people on the street motioning to her. Hook saw the danger ahead that she was not aware of and pulled her from the track. She turned around not knowing why Hook reacted that way, but then saw the train. It had missed her by a foot. Another time a prowler broke into her office when she was in the back room. Scared and sensing a presence in her waiting room, she suddenly saw Hook bolting down the hallway, growling and chasing away the intruder. Hook’s handler is a family therapist and Hook sits beside her chair while she listens to and helps patients. She says that “the amazing thing about Hook is he is not only sensitive to my needs but to the needs of others. When he sees a patient in distress or crying he will leave our chair, go sit in the patient’s lap and lick their tears. He has brought smiles to many children, teens, and adults in our practice. Hook is everyone’s hero not just mine.”
K-9 Roo (Boston, MA) – K-9 Roo is a ballistics/bomb dog with the Boston Police Department, and is retiring this year. His accomplishments include the recovery of 12 firearms (including three used in homicides), more than 300 shell casings involved in shootings, and he has answered at least 500 “shots fired” calls and 200 calls to investigate suspicious packages. He searched Boylston Street after the Boston Marathon bombing, looking for secondary devices amid the carnage. He was in Watertown the night of the shootout and was the only Boston Police K-9 present for the capture of Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Roo searched the yard he was captured in immediately after to ensure Tsarnaev did not plant any IEDs to kill responding officers. He has performed dignitary protection for everyone from the mayor of Boston to the President of the United States, including heads of state from all over the world. He has had the honor of attending funerals of former Boston police officers and officers killed in the line of duty in New York City. Roo has also brightened the days of children by coming to visit them in the hospital or performing demonstrations at community events. He’s protected thousands at public events, from Red Sox games to a New Kids on the Block concert where he ate an entire pizza that a roadie tried to hide – nothing gets by him.
Layka (Galena, KS) – In May 2012 Layka’s team was assaulting an enemy compound in an Afghan village, receiving direct rifle fire from the compound. Apache helicopters and Hellfires were brought in to help. Layka was sent into search for injured or live combatants and explosives. Once inside, she engaged an enemy combatant while taking four rounds from an AK-47 to the right shoulder area. Her handler removed her from the building and headed to a predetermined point for extraction where the medics started working on her. She was flown to a base where her right leg was removed and she was prepped for transport to Germany. Once in Germany she underwent more surgery to remove and repair her shoulder and triceps. She was moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to fully recover and was medically retired in August of 2012.
Kobuk (York, ME) – Kobuk is a certified search and rescue dog and a member of the volunteer, non-profit Maine Search & Rescue Dogs team. One of his most successful finds was locating a 77-year-old diabetic with dementia, who had been missing for two nights in the Maine woods without food, water, or her medications. Kobuk’s mission was incredibly time-sensitive. After hours of searching, on the third morning Kobuk’s nose went up into the air, and he took off running two-tenths of a mile to locate her. Kobuk sprinted back to his handler, gave a loud bark (the signal that he had found her), then turned back around and bolted back to the elderly woman with his handler in pursuit. Thankfully, she was found in time to save her life. Kobuk searches with enthusiasm, never quits while someone is still lost in the woods, and he loves to give kids his signature “Kobuk-kisses”
Gander (Great Lakes, IL) – Gander was saved from a Colorado shelter, and was rescued by a women’s prison program in Denver, Colorado for obedience training. He was then trained by Freedom Service Dogs in Englewood, Colorado. It was there in September 2012 that his handler and Gander became a team. They have not spent one day apart since then and he credits Gander with literally saving his life. In 2014, Gander was the first mixed breed dog to win the American Kennel Club “Award for Canine Excellence.” Gander is on a mission. He travels the United States – 36 states so far – to encourage education and awareness for PTS, veteran suicide, service dogs, and persons with visible and invisible disabilities. While traveling, the team performs Planned Acts of Community Kindness (PACKS), and fundraising. They have been instrumental in helping to raise a million dollars for numerous veterans’ groups, veterans, service dog charities, and individuals in need. They sponsored the country’s first service dog education conference, and have given hundreds of presentations to schools and community organizations. The team created a collection of inspirational dog stories entitled, “In Dogs We Trust.” They love to visit hospitals, USOs and community events as service dog ambassadors.
Therapy Dogs category (sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food, the Official Pet Food of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)
Mango (Las Cruces, NM) – Mango is a four-year-old paralyzed rescue who was homeless, hit by a car, and scheduled for euthanasia. Emma’s Cleft Palate Chihuahua Rescue pulled Mango from a shelter, nursed her back to health and placed her in a program called Emma’s Rescue Reserve. This program was created to place paralyzed dogs with owners so they could work with disabled veterans who suffer from physical disabilities and show them that if a small dog in a wheelchair can overcome her handicap, then so can they. The comfort Mango brings them teaches that “disabled” is only a word and words should never stop our ability to overcome a life-altering, physical change no matter what the handicap may be. Mango also helps other disabled pets through “Mango’s Freedom Wheels,” which purchases wheelchairs for them. Thanks to generous donations, the group has purchased more than 150 custom-built wheelchairs to help other animals regain their ability to be mobile again. She has put cats, dogs, and even a mini-horse and pig into wheelchairs so they can experience the freedom of standing and running once more.
Each finalist will be awarded $2,500 for their designated charity partner . The 2016 American Hero Dog’s charity partner will receive an additional $5,000. All the partner charities are dedicated, like the American Humane Association, to sharing the powerful impact dogs have in each one of our lives and the incredible value and importance to be had within the human-animal bond.
Everyone is invited to submit one (1) vote, per day, through August 24, at www.herodogawards.org. The finalists will be flown to be a part of the Hero Dog Awards gala to take place September 10 at the Beverly Hilton. The event will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel in late October as a two-hour special.
Zoetis is the official online sponsor of the Hero Dog Awards.
About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit www.americanhumane.org. To inquire about Hero Dog sponsorship opportunities, please email Mari Harner at [email protected].
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