If only Lassie had it so good.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, eight courageous canines with their human partners will descend upon the Beverly Hilton as finalists in a black-tie, star-studded celebration as part of the third Annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.
After more than one million votes have been cast for a field of 141 candidates, one heroic hound from among the eight finalists will be named the 2013 American Hero Dog. The awards will be hosted by actress Betty White and air on the Hallmark Channel as a 90-minute special, Wednesday, Oct. 30.
The eight finalists actually represent one dog from each of eight categories: law enforcement/arson dogs, search and rescue, guide dogs, hearing dogs, military dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs and emerging hero dogs.
“Every dog who was nominated is truly an American hero,” says Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. “Every day, in all sorts of ways, dogs protect, comfort and provide unconditional friendship and nonjudgmental companionship to the sick, the infirm, our veterans and their families and children facing difficulties. This is American Humane Association’s third year celebrating the special friendship and absolute heroic feats they perform for us daily. We thank the animals, their dedicated owners and handlers and the generous sponsors who have helped bring about that recognition.”
One of dogs, for example, is a Carin terrier mix named Lola, the finalist from the hearing dog category, who assists her human partner, Charlene Mackenzie.
Yet Lola was originally a dog rescued from abuse and neglect.
“Lola was rough around the edges and needed basic obedience and public training,” trainer Cheryl Bowers told Washington’s Peninsula Daily News. “She also needed refresher training for the hearing tasks. Charlene was committed to making it work, and Lola responded well to all of my training.”
Now Lola connects Charlene, who is deaf, to the world of sound around her. Lola is her alarm clock, her exercise companion and her reason to move beyond depression and self-imposed isolation. Whenever the oven-timer buzzes, for example, or the phone rings, or someone knocks at the door, Lola alerts Charlene and insists she’s paying attention.
“Let the trumpets blow, fireworks blast, and the parade begin,” says Charlene. “My hearing dog Lola is a life-saver – an unsung heroine who gives her best daily to fulfill a higher purpose and for whom I’ll be forever grateful.”
Carlos, an explosive detection dog, is the finalist in the military dogs category. CWD Carlos retired in 2011 at the age of eight, after protecting U.S. and International Security Assistance forces in continuous deployment for nearly five years. He worked with the U.S. Army’s 3rd and 4th Infantry Divisions in Baghdad for two and a half years, was then transferred to Kandahar in 2009 to work in direct support of U.S. Special Forces on the front lines. Carlos is credited with finds on missions that saved the lives of many American soldiers.
Sadly, upon retirement Carlos seems to have been the victim of neglect. To this day, Carlos still carries ligature mark scars on his back legs from hobble-style restraints. Fortunately for this hero, he was reclaimed, eventually adopted by a family and got a “Freedom Flight” home.
Each finalist will be presented with a Hero Dog Award and win $1,500 for a selected charity partner. The American Hero Dog winner will receive an additional $5,000 for his or her charity partner.