The 2017 Hero Dog Awards seek to find and recognize dogs who help people in many important ways. Dogs are nominated in one of seven categories: Service Dogs, Emerging Hero Dogs, Law Enforcement/ Arson Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide/Hearing Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs.
A Guide Dog is trained to lead, follow commands, ignore distractions, and even disobey a command that would put its human partner in danger. The human also must be trained on how to handle the dog and how to be a good leader of the team. A Hearing Dog is specially trained to alert its deaf owner to sounds we all take for granted. Unlike a Guide Dog that must be of a certain body size in order to lead a person, a Hearing Dog can be large or small, pure-bred or mixed breed. Many are shelter animals who are determined to have the intelligence and temperament to serve as a Hearing Dog. It is a perfect blending of needs - deaf individuals have the opportunity to live an independent life, and dogs who may literally die for lack of homes are given a purpose and owners that will love and care for them. Guide dogs and hearing dogs are living examples of the trust bond between human and animal.
In the world of Search and Rescue operations, dogs have a very special place. Their keen sense of smell, excellent night vision, extremely sensitive hearing and endurance have made them crucial in efforts to locate people or animals who are missing or trapped. They truly are life savers!
Over the past couple of weeks I have highlighted some of the seven finalists for this year’s Hero Dog Award, sponsored by the American Humane Association. “Atlas the Wonderdog” was nominated in the Service Dog Category; “Ice” represents the Law Enforcement/Arson category; “Aladdin” is a Therapy Dog; and “Adak” is a Military Dog.
The two finalists this week are both German Shepherds, and represent the more commonly noticed service dogs.
Pierce is a Guide Dog. His owner is an Army veteran who sustained an injury during Operation Desert Storm that ultimately left him blind. For more than 20 years, he used a cane to make his way, with the help of his wife and kids. While on a family vacation, his young son admitted he didn’t really see much because he was watching to make sure his dad didn’t fall. The veteran realized a guide dog could help him - and his wife and children. Pierce has not only lifted the burden from the family, but the Army veteran is enjoying new-found freedom and independence with his faithful furry companion. Pierce’s charity partner is the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation.
Luca is nominated in the Search and Rescue Dogs group. At 11 years old, he is retired, and suffering from back problems. But his owner and handler, who works with the Fort Worth Police Department, was asked to bring Luca in to help search for an endangered elderly man. Falling right back into his old rhythm and training, Luca located the man, who was stuck in waist-deep mud on the bank of a river, saving his life. Luca is proof that while you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, in Luca’s case you don’t have to. His charity partner is American Rescue Dog Association.
Learn more about the wonderful animals nominated for the 2017 Hero Dog Award by visiting the website at HeroDogAwards.org. Cast your vote for the finalist you think should be America’s Hero Dog – but don’t delay because voting ends Wednesday, August 30th! Whether saving a life or just enriching one, these four-legged heroes deserve our gratitude, when we’re speaking of pets.