After many courageous canines applied for this honor, the American Humane Association and Cesar canine cuisine awarded one with the title of American Hero Dog to be revealed on the Hallmark Channel November 11, 2011. Internet votes along with a panel of judges, including our own Wendy Diamond, decided which of the heroic eight finalists will receive the highest honor. Other judges include Emmy winning actresses, Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kristin Chenoweth. Much more than a comedic genius and cultural icon, Betty White has also served as the President Emeritus of The Morris Animal Foundation, where she’s been a trustee since 1971. Health guru Jillian Michaels, and Top Chef’s “Fan Favorite” Fabio Viviani, will also join several national ambassadors for the American Humane Association as judges. Adults 18 and over contributed and casted their votes at www.herodogawards.org. For every vote cast Cesar canine cuisine will make a donation to the American Humane Association, and current votes have already yielded over a $200,000 charitable contribution.
Each of the eight finalists represent a unique category, highlighting their individualism and heroism simultaneously. These categories include Law Enforcement/Arson, Hearing, Search and Rescue, Military, Guide, Therapy, Emerging Hero and Service Dogs. Each impressive entrant has partnered with a charity and one will receive $10,000 for the grand prize. Judges and voting audiences alike have a difficult decision to make choosing from a range of heroic histories, with such accomplishments as saving a life on 9/11, searching for missing soldiers, and even engaging in therapeutic surfing with disabled children.
At five years old, Sadie became a finalist after working in the Major Crimes Unit of the Colorado Burea of Investigation, helping law enforcement detect critical evidence in arson and homicide cases. Sadie has risked her life in collapsing structures and displayed boundless bravery in approximately 400 fires. One of the youngest finalists, Sadie will continue cultivating her courage to serve others.
Similarly aiding law enforcement Sage, another finalist, is recognized as a result of her efforts as a search and rescue dog during the high profile case of Natalee Holloway. Sage also worked to recover victims from the Pentagon after 9/11 and joined government search efforts for soldiers in Iraq. After battling lung cancer due to working in toxic conditions, Sage continues to be a hero by advocating for cancer patients and inspiring “The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve.”
Also lending their canine courage to the military, Bino is another finalist. Officially names MWD Bino C 152, Bino worked as a Narcotics Detection/Patrol K-9 for 11 years before serving in Iraq for 14 months. Currently the official Mascot of MWD Adoptions, Bino also works as a PTSD Demo Service Dog for therapeutic purposes. Displaying heroism in a different way at 13 years old, Bino helps new service dogs and soldiers to stay calm and navigate through stressful situations without panic attacks.
Roselle is an additional finalist who became a hero on 9/11, without the training and background of a military or law enforcement dog. As a guide dog, Roselle accompanied her blind owner to work on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, as she did everyday. While people panicked, Roselle remained calm and courageously led her owner out of the building, through the debris, and to safety underground, ultimately saving his life.
Heroism can have many faces and may not always mean running into a burning building. This finalist, Harley, is a hearing dog who has significantly improved his owner’s ability to cope with their disability. Harley responds to noise cues, such as doorbells, and helps protect deaf individuals by increasing their awareness in public places. When Harley first connected with his owner, she was in her 50’s and had been deaf since childhood. Harley has significantly improved her confidence and quality of life.
Zurich, an additional finalist, offered his owner similar support after partnering with her in 2004. As a Certified CCI Service dog, Zurich tackled daily tasks along side his owner who has thrived from such companionship. Being unable to talk or walk, Zurich’s owner credits her heroic dog for enriching her life and making her look forward to tomorrow.
Collecting over 2,000 teddy bears and stuff animals, finalist Stacey Mae is a hero for visiting children in hospitals and brightening their spirits with these gifts. With a visit from Stacey Mae and her collection, children can develop a more positive attitude in taking on their health challenges and improving their prognosis. Stacey Mae’s selfless and creative acts have made this possible.
Perhaps the most unique approach to philanthropy and heroism can be seen in the last remaining finalist, Ricochet. While training to be a service dog, Ricochet’s owner discovered that her dog had a different gift for helping people in the form of surfing. Ricochet made a video highlighting her journey to becoming a surfing dog, and quickly became a youtube sensation. Capitalizing on this popularity, Ricochet has now raised over $81,000 for human and animal causes such as breast cancer, canine cancer, animal rescue groups, and adaptive surfing organizations. Ricochet is also the only dog in the world that surfs with special needs kids and people with disabilities for therapeutic purposes.
Each amazing contender for the title of 2011’s American Hero Dog warrants praise and recognition for their selfless and fearless acts. Inspiring people and other animals to pursue activism, advocacy, and everyday heroism, each finalist has gone far beyond they’re own individual call of duty. Despite who wins, each finalist is deserving of the most sincere thank you for working to better the world in any way they can. For voting, donations, and tickets to the live event in Los Angeles on October 1st please visit www.herodogawards.org.
Interested in learning more about supporting the American Humane Association? Visit www.americanhumane.org for further information.