American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards - 2016 Finalists

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Charity Partner: Hand in Paw
Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico

Meet Mango! She is a four year old paralyzed rescue that was homeless, hit by a car, scheduled for euthanasia and pulled by a rescue to be given a second chance. Emma’s Cleft Palate Chihuahua Rescue pulled Mango from a shelter, nursed her back to health and placed her in a program called Emma’s Rescue Reserve. This program was created to place paralyzed dogs with owners so they could work with our disabled Veterans that suffer from physical disabilities by showing them that a small dog in a wheel chair can overcome her handicap and they can too. The comfort Mango brings them teaches them that “disabled” is only a word and words should never label our ability to overcome a life altering, physical change no matter what the handicap may be. Mango also helps other disabled pets by purchasing wheel chairs for them through a program she started called “Mango’s Freedom Wheels.” She started this mission sixteen months ago and with generous donations she has purchased over 150 custom built wheelchairs to help other animals regain their ability to be mobile again. She has put a mini horse, pig, cats and dogs into wheelchairs so they can experience the freedom of standing and running once again. Mango is a Hero to many and she deserves this award.

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Charity Partner: Canine Companions for Independence
Location: Great Lakes, Illinois

Gander was saved from a Colorado high kill shelter, and was rescued by a women’s prison program in Denver, Colorado, for obedience training. He was then trained by Freedom Service Dogs in Englewood, Colorado. It was there, in September 2012, that Lon Hodge and Gander became a team. They have not spent one day apart since then and Lon credits Gander with literally saving his life. In 2014, Gander was the first mixed breed dog to win the American Kennel Club (AKC) “Award for Canine Excellence.”

Gander is on a mission. He travels the United States, 36 states thus far, to encourage education and awareness for PTSD, veteran suicide, service dogs, and persons with visible and invisible disabilities. While traveling he and Lon, his handler, perform Planned Acts of Community Kindness (PACKS), and fund raising: they’ve been instrumental in helping to raise a million dollars for numerous veterans’ groups, veterans, service dog charities, and individuals in need.

They sponsored the country’s first service dog education conference and have given hundreds of presentations to schools and community organizations and they created a collection of inspirational dog stories entitled “In Dogs We Trust.” They love to visit hospitals, USOs and community events as service dog ambassadors.

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Charity Partner: Combat Canines: The DDoc Foundation
Location: Galena, Kansas

May 2012. Our team was assaulting an enemy compound in an Afghan village. We received direct rifle fire from the compound. Apache’s with hellfires were brought in to help. Layka was sent in to search for injured or live combatants and explosives. Once inside she engaged an enemy combatant while taking 4 direct AK rounds to the right shoulder area. I removed her from the building and headed to a predetermined point for extraction where the medics started working on her immediately. She was flown to an FOB where her right leg was removed and she was prepped for transport to Germany. Once in Germany she underwent more surgery to remove and repair her shoulder and tricep. She was moved to Lackland to fully recover and was medically retired in August of 2012.

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Charity Partner: National Search Dog Alliance
Location: York, Maine

KOBUK TO THE RESCUE! Everyone began to feel the urgency knowing we were searching for a 77 year old woman with diabetes and dementia, who had been lost for more than two nights in the woods of Maine. Ruth Brennan had no water, no food nor her medications, so the Maine Warden Service with a crew of over 146 people knew our mission was time sensitive to locate her… soon! After hours of searching that third morning, Kobuk’s nose went up into the slight wind now from our north west, and he ran off almost 2/10 of a mile to locate her, according to our GPS unit that tracks his collar. Kobuk sprinted back to me, and gave a loud bark (his trained alert that he has found someone), then he spun around and bolted with me in full pursuit. It was so exhilarating! Kobuk had found Ruth Brennan, just in time to save her life! Kobuk is a certified search and rescue K9 on the Maine Search & Rescue Dogs team (, a volunteer non-profit 501(c)3 organization, and owner/handler is Elizabeth Fossett of York, Maine. Kobuk deserves to be recognized as the “Hero Dog Award: Search & Rescue Dog” because he is a great ambassador for all SAR K9s. Kobuk searches with enthusiasm and never quits while someone is still lost in the woods, and he loves to give kids his signature “Kobuk-kisses”.

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Charity Partner: K9s4COPS
Location: Los Angeles, California

On 1/1/16 LAPD units went into pursuit of two suspects wanted for robbery and murder. Suspect-2 exited, carjacked and shot two occupants of another vehicle. Suspect-2 crashed and ran into a house occupied by a father and three sons. Suspect-2 stabbed the father in his face but he was able to escape. Gunshots rang inside. It was believed Suspect-2 shot the children. An immediate entry/rescue team was established. K9 units arrived on scene. A plan was formulated to rescue the children. K-9 Officer Huynh and K-9 Edo were deployed to make entry into the house and possibly engage Suspect-2. As the team approached they were shot at through the door and they began to take more gunfire. The door was breached as Huynh targeted K9-Edo who entered the house. Another gunshot was heard and K-9 personnel entered. Both boys were shot inside. Edo saw the two young victims but turned to engage Suspect-2 instead. Suspect-2 then shot himself in the head. Edo pulled Suspect-2 away from the gun. It was discovered that Suspect-2 began shooting the children when his pistol jammed. When he cleared his malfunction, the officers arrived at the door and Suspect-2 started shooting at the K9 Officers instead. Undoubtedly, K9-Edo’s actions saved the entire K-9 team. Both boys survived. Suspect-2 died.

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Charity Partner: Pets for Patriots
Location: Tehachapi, California

Hooch is a French Mastiff with badly cropped ears, a broken tail, no tongue and the brightest spirit you’ll ever encounter. Zach Skow, of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, was alerted about him by a shelter in Bakersfield, and was told that the dog wouldn’t eat or drink, and would instead thrash his food and water bowls around like a maniac. By the time he was pulled to freedom, he was 35 pounds underweight – starving, dehydrated and severely malnourished. Never thinking to check for a missing tongue, they thought he might have a broken or dislocated jaw that was causing his behavior. When taken to the vet, he was sedated to ready him for x-rays, and the gruesome discovery was made… Hooch’s tongue had been savagely removed at its base, likely in an attempt to prime him for the role of a bait dog. After using a feeding tube (Hooch kept yanking it out) it was discovered that Hooch could be hand-fed! He tilts his head back while Zach has a handful of food and places it in the back of Hooch’s throat and they let gravity do the rest. Hooch stands for overcoming adversity, bravery and living in the moment. He spends many hours with Marley’s Mutts Miracle Mutts division, as a therapy dog. He works with autistic, abused and special needs children. Hooch is known for showing patience and kindness and is proof that anything can be overcome. He is our hero and the best mascot for bravery around.

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Charity Partner: Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
Location: Sacramento, California

My service dog, Hook, is a hearing dog. He is a 12 pound ten year old and goes almost everywhere with me. About three years ago I was downtown in Sacramento and was crossing a street. A train was coming that I did not hear because of my hearing impairment. As I was approaching and crossing the track Hook started jumping on me and I did not know why. I couldn’t figure out what he wanted. So I stopped and I saw people on the street motioning to me. It distracted me as I was crossing the track. Hook seeing the danger ahead that I was not aware of suddenly pulled me off the track. I turned around not knowing why and then saw the train. It missed me by a foot.

Another time a prowler broke into my office. I was in the back room and there was a loud sound. I was so scared. I felt a presence in my waiting room. Before I could think about calling 911 Hook bolted out to the waiting room. I looked down the hallway and saw a man. Hook was growling and chased the man out of my office.

Hook usually goes everywhere with me. I am a family therapist and at my office Hook sits beside me in my chair while I help patients. The amazing thing about Hook is he is not only sensitive to my needs but to the needs of others. When he sees a patient in distress or crying he will leave our chair, go sit in the patients lap and lick their tears. He has brought smiles to many children, teens, and adults in our practice we share. Hook is everyone’s hero not just mine.

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Charity Partner: Paws With a Cause
Location: Easton, Pennsylvania

Allentown Fire Department Arson K9 Judge is a 7 year old yellow Labrador retriever that has been in service since early 2011. I met Judge for the first time in the spring class of 2011 and we have been partners ever since. He is more vocal than the other arson dogs but I attribute it to his outgoing personality and drive to work!

Judge is a well-rounded K9 that thrives in 3 major areas: investigation, deterrent, and education. As an investigator, Judge has worked over 275 fire scenes and during that time, evidence he has found has led to multiple criminal arrests and civil penalties for insurance fraud cases. As a deterrent, the numbers speak for themselves. The number of arson fires has dropped 52.7 percent since Judge has been in service with the City of Allentown. As an educator, Judge has done over 500 fire safety programs and demonstrations for crime watch groups, specialty dog shows, elementary school and high school programs, and everything in between. We have just started a pilot program with autistic children using Judge to get the life safety message to this group. He has been instrumental in making the entire Lehigh Valley and neighboring communities more aware of fire and life safety.