The 2015 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 Dogs, Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and Guide/Hearing Dogs.
The Service Dog category includes animals that assist people with disabilities other than sight and hearing. Most have received special training.
The Emerging Hero category honors the partnership that often develops between human and dog. Some of these animals are trained in such areas as detection of diseases such as cancer, others are just pets who, without any special training, instinctively assist their human companions, and some are overcomers who have triumphed over adversity in an extraordinary way.
Once again, earlier this year the American Humane Association set out to find America’s top hero dogs. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast online, narrowing the field down to just eight finalists, each a separate category. In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight these eight extraordinary canines. And you will have the opportunity to join others in voting online for your favorite to be named Hero Dog of the Year.
Let’s begin with Axel, nominated in the Service Dog category. This German Shepherd was teamed up with Jason Haag, a former Marine who suffers with PTSD and traumatic brain injury after two combat tours in the Middle East. When they met, Axel was just a week away from being euthanized, and Jason was so fearful he slept with a gun under his pillow. Now they are inseparable, with Axel keeping Jason calm and relaxed. He says the dog is his lifesaver. Axel’s charity partner is Dogs on Deployment.
Harley represents the Emerging Hero Dog category. His Facebook page says he’s “a little dog with a big dream”. His life actually has been more of a nightmare, as he spent ten years confined in a small cage at a puppy mill. In addition to problems with his mouth and spine and deformed legs, he lost an eye when his cage was power-washed with him still in it. After being rescued in 2011, this little Chihuahua is thriving on lots of love and attention, and serves as a spokesdog for the campaign against puppy mills. He helps to reassure newly-rescued dogs, educates people about the horrors of puppy mills and participates in fundraising events to support rescue efforts and provide medical care to hundreds of puppy-mill dogs. Harley’s charity partner is New Leash on Life. His Facebook page is “HarleyFreightTrainTaylor”.
To learn more about the Hero Dog Awards, and the eight finalists competing for this year’s top spot, visit the website at HeroDogAwards.org. While you’re there, cast your vote for the one you think should be America’s next Hero Dog. It’s a great way to celebrate these special animals who make our lives better in so many ways, when you’re speaking of pets.