Pet tales: Hailing the Hero Dogs of American Humane

There are many ways a dog can earn the right to be called a hero and American Humane has launched its yearly platform to honor them.  

Among the seven finalists for the Hero Dog award is an aging German shepherd who came out of retirement as a search and rescue dog to find and save an elderly man lost in heavily wooded terrain in Texas.

Another German shepherd, Adak, worked as an explosive detection dog until he was 13. He served in Iraq, Afghanistan and 10 U.S. states, protecting soldiers, civilians, diplomats and dignitaries by locating bombs and mortars before they exploded.

When rescuers found Aladdin in 2013, the pit bull terrier mix had open wounds and was severely emaciated. His back legs and tail had been broken and he was missing 12 teeth. Aladdin rewarded the people who saved him by earning his therapy dog certification, working with Philadelphia police and other organizations to help raise more than $300,000 for rescues and shelters. 

The best, brightest and bravest dogs shine in the 2017 American Humane Hero Dog Awards. Finalists in seven categories were chosen from a field of 188 nominees. Online voting will continue through Aug. 30 at to select one winner. There’s usually more diversity among the finalists, but this year only two breeds are represented  — German shepherds and pit bulls.

Search and rescue

In March 2016, when Fort Worth, Texas, police could not find an elderly man who had Alzheimer’s, Officer Cole Brock brought his partner Luca, 10, out of retirement. The German shepherd led officers through brush and down a steep drop-off to a spot where they could see the man on the far side of the river, waist-deep in the cold, swift waters of the Trinity River.

Military dogs

Adak tracked explosives for the State Department, the Army and a private business, Dogs for Defense Inc. The German shepherd’s assignments included the Jan. 14, 2008, terrorist attack on the Kabul Serena Hotel in Afghanistan. Armed terrorists were still inside when Adak, the first dog on the scene, led a room-to-room search.

“Adak came across dismembered, deceased victims ... and performed flawlessly,” reads the nominating essay. Six people died, but more than 20 people were evacuated.

“His transition from war to family member [in St. Cloud, Minn.] was incredible.”

Therapy dogs

Aladdin is a Ronald McDonald House Ambassador and works with Philadelphia police raising money for the Fallen Officers Fund and attending police events with special needs children. 

A trained “crisis response dog,” he spent a week in Orlando, Fla., last year after the Pulse nightclub shooting, doing therapy dog visits with people affected by the tragedy and raising money for the victims’ fund.

Law enforcement

Ice nearly died from stab wounds he received in July 2016 while investigating an illegal marijuana farm in a national forest in Olympia, Wash. U.S. Forest Service officers sent the German shepherd after a fleeing suspect, who stabbed the dog in the chest, face and muzzle. He continued to hang on.

His handler and other officers bandaged the wounds and took turns carrying Ice nearly a mile over rough terrain to get to the California Highway Patrol helicopter they had summoned to get Ice to a veterinary surgical facility. He made a full recovery and has returned to duty.

Emerging hero dog

“Abigail is a HERO because of the lesson she teaches about forgiveness and ending dog fighting,” says the nominating essay.

Found last November as a stray in Miami, the 1-year-old pit bull mix was anemic and covered with ticks, scars and blood. Half of her face was missing.

LIFE (Love Is Fur Ever) Dog Rescue got her the multiple surgeries and extensive skin grafts she needed. When Facebook followers saw photos of veterinary staff dressing her head wounds with gauze fashioned into a headband, people from all over the world started sending doggie bonnets. The Facebook page “Bonnets for Abigail” has more than 19,000 followers.

Guide dog

An Army veteran who lost his vision during Operation Desert Storm says he regained a large measure of independence and freedom when he got Pierce, a German shepherd, from Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. He lives in Palm Bay, Fla., with the man, his wife and two children. Every member of the family has “fallen in love” with Pierce, says the nominating essay. 

Service dog

A soldier came home from Iraq, struggling with post traumatic stress disorder and the effects of traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb. Nearly a decade later, the veteran was taking more than 33 prescription pills each day. “I was lost,” he said in his nomination.

Then he was teamed with Atlas, a German shepherd who became his service dog and “lifesaver.” Atlas stops anxiety attacks and flashbacks, wakes his partner from nightmares and enables the former solider “to take an active, positive role in my children’s lives.” 

The seven hero dogs will be flown to Los Angeles for the Sept. 16 award gala at the Beverly Hilton hotel that will be later broadcast as a two-hour Hallmark Channel special. 

Each finalist receives $2,500 for the charity of their choice. The winner gets an additional $5,000. The awards are sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE (Leaders in Furthering Education) Foundation.

Linda Wilson Fuoco: or 412-263-3064 or on Facebook.





First Published August 11, 2017 10:12 AM