The Hero Dog Awards were created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs. The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America's most courageous canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel few days ago and following more than a million votes by the American public and the opinions of an expert panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts, "Chi Chi," a four-year-old Golden Retriever from Phoenix, Arizona has been named this year's most heroic dog, besting 265 other brave canines and capturing the top title of "American Hero Dog".
Chi Chi was the one chosen as 2018 American Hero Dog, but all seven finalists were winners in their categories, and we salute them for their courage, service and compassion. Here are their official nominations, as told by their handlers and owners.
Chi Chi, Hero Dog of the year:
Chi Chi is a quadruple amputee who is inspiring people all over the world. She was left for dead in South Korea where she was found in a garbage bag with her legs bound, worn to the bone, and already necrotized. The only way to save her life was to amputate portions of all four of her legs. When she first arrived at our home, she was afraid of people, but with time and lots of love and grace, she realized that she is safe and no one will ever hurt her again. She forgave and decided to trust people again. She quickly adapted to her first set of custom prosthetics and now loves spending her days as a certified therapy dog sharing her joy and cheerful demeanor with people of all ages. Recently, she had surgery to remove cancer tumors, so she is a cancer survivor. When people meet Chi Chi, they are inspired by her courage, perseverance, ability to overcome adversity and her never-give-up attitude. She exemplifies resilience and forgiveness, and openly shares her love and compassion in abundance. Her sweet-tempered and gentle spirit opens people's hearts and her perceptive spirit senses where her love is needed. When people hear Chi Chi's story and experience her attitude of joy, they are often inspired to face their challenges with renewed courage and a fresh perspective. Chi Chi brings joy everywhere she goes and her optimism and smile spreads quickly to others. She positively impacts thousands of people all over the world via her online therapy work through her social media account.
For her extraordinary bravery and good works, Chi Chi won the American Humane Hero Dog Awards' "Therapy Dog" category.
K-9 Flash (Detroit, MI)
K-9 Flash was found in an animal shelter when she was only 9 months old. She was picked up on the streets of Everett, Washington, with no home, no name, and no family. We were starting a Narcotics K-9 course at the Washington State Patrol Academy in Sept of 2005, when we were evaluating dogs in shelters who possess a good hunt, air scent, retrieve, and prey drive. Flash excelled in all of those areas, so we took a chance on her and included her in the class just one day before she was to be euthanized. Once she had her chance, Flash excelled in Narcotics detection and graduated as the only dog to score 100 percent on her certification. She was assigned as the first Narcotics K-9 on Patrol at the Yakima Police Department while assisting two DEA Narcotics Task Force Teams, Regional SWAT Team, and the Patrol Division. K-9 Flash had over 3,000 deployments in her career with over 2,200 narcotics-related finds and seizures. When Flash retired in 2013, she was just getting started. Because of her fortitude and her will to be successful, she inspired her handler to start a national nonprofit to take care of retired K-9 heroes like her with medical assistance, food, and end-of-duty services. Most people don't know that when K-9 heroes like Flash retire they lose all funding from the agencies they served. Therefore in 2016, K-9 Flash was the sole inspiration for the start of Project K-9 Hero. She now has her own children's book and travels the nation reading it at schools and inspiring children.
Willow (Las Vegas, NV) – Emerging Hero Dog Of The Year
Willow is a survivor of the South Korean dog meat trade. His owners turned him in to the slaughterhouse because he was old. Neglected, with cut ears, matted hair, a mouth of bad teeth and an infected tongue, he was allowed to be rescued because he "didn't offer much meat." He was one of the lucky ones. Arriving in September of 2016, Willow is spreading awareness on social media and making public appearances to educate people on animal welfare topics (including the dog and cat meat trade) through non-traumatic and non-graphic ways, and presenting resources to help more of his four-legged friends. Willow travels internationally in foamboard form and poses with trade survivors. His campaign, "I Am Willow, I Am Not Food" raises flight funds for dogs. He is the mascot for a newly created Animal Rights Club at a local school, helping students advocate for change in the classroom and aiding their school in becoming the first vegan option cafeteria in the State. We are developing educational tools to use in an animal welfare speaking series for schools and conferences. He is also getting therapy dog certification to spread awareness to disabled children through animal-related books/reading programs. Willow is a voice and inspirational leader for millions of animals, not just those subjected to the dog and cat meat trade. People listen, learn and respond to Willow. He is a vehicle for raising awareness. Willow is an EMERGING HERO who will grow that status into something that makes a lifelong paw print in the animal welfare world.
Frances (Staten Island, NY) – Guide/ Hearing dog of the year
At the age of 32, I lost my eyesight from a rare complication after battling breast cancer. Over the next six months, I would have to relearn everything from crossing the street to sorting laundry. Then, the universe threw me the ultimate curveball – I found out I was pregnant! When people asked me how I planned on traveling with my baby, I responded, "I'm going to get a guide dog." In September of 2016, Guiding Eyes for the Blind matched with me with Frances, a female yellow Labrador. Since then, "Franny" and I have become partners in both parenting and advocacy work for visually impaired parents. Now the mother of two daughters, I depend on Frances to help guide me to pre-school, doctor's appointments and extracurricular activities. When "Franny" is not helping me meet the demands of motherhood, she accompanies me to help educate kids through our Visually Impaired Education Program (VIEP). Aimed at grades K-2, VIEP's mission is to engage school-aged children through classroom interaction with the blind/visually impaired community; helping diminish stereotypes associated with blindness. Frances attends every presentation, a beautiful reminder about the important work of guide dogs. I believe Frances deserves to be the American Hero Guide Dog because her partnership allows me to be the woman I want to be. She helps me juggle all that comes with being a working mom while educating our community about living with vision loss.
Sergeant Fieldy (McAllen, TX) – Military dog of the year
Sgt. Fieldy is an 11-year-old Black Lab with the heart and energy of a 3-year-old who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and retired in August 2014. I am his handler and I met him in South Carolina as part of a group of specialized units formed to combat the number-one threat in Afghanistan: Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). We were deployed to Afghanistanin February 2011. We both experienced first-hand the effects of IEDs when a vehicle struck a pressure plate during a patrol and injured the occupants. Knowing that we were both targets for insurgent observers, we worked tirelessly to detect explosives. He alerted me and found yet another IED, a 60-pound plastic barrel containing homemade explosives. During our deployment, Sgt. Fieldy found several more IEDs and their components, which helped save countless lives during our tour. After his deployment, he was taken back for refitting and training, and I returned home. I later found out that Sgt. Fieldy deployed two more times to Afghanistan and continued to find more IEDs and save many more lives. After serving four tours, on Aug. 7, 2014, I was finally able to adopt him. Since then he has very much enjoyed his retirement. In Nov. 2014 he participated in the Veterans Day Parade in New York City. And in July 2016, he was honored with the K-9 Medal of Courage award on Capitol Hill, and has been recognized for his bravery and courageous sacrifice on several other occasions. He has made a life-changing impact on my life. He is my hero!
Ruby (East Greenwich, RI) – Search and rescue dog of the year
In October of 2017, a teenage boy went missing from his home in the town of Gloucester. After 36 hours and failed attempts to find him, the Gloucester Police Department requested the services of the Rhode Island State Police K-9 Division. K-9 Ruby and I answered the call and responded to the scene along with other K-9 teams. As part of normal protocol, I briefly interviewed the boy's mother. During the conversation, it was revealed that the boy's mother had volunteered her services working with Ruby six years ago at the RISPCA and fostered her each time she was returned. After hours of searching, K-9 Ruby and I were ultimately successful in finding the missing teenager, but unfortunately, he was found in grave medical condition. The state police and EMS services removed the boy from the scene and transported him to a local hospital where he made a full recovery. If it were not for the effort of the state police and especially K-9 Ruby, that young boy's life may have been lost. You can think what you may, but I believe that was Ruby's way of saying thank you to the boy's mother for taking care of her during her rough beginning. Ruby was given a chance at life and ended up saving a life. With the efforts of two organizations (RISP and RISPCA) and a handful of amazing and dedicated people, great things can happen. Ruby will also be featured in a soon-to-be-released award-winning film, which documents her rescue, her rigorous training to become a certified Search & Rescue K9, and accompanies her on her first official searches with her handler, Daniel O'Neil.
Roxy (Canton, NC) – Service Dog Of the year
Hello, everyone. My name is Justin. I am a disabled veteran from the Iraq war. I was deployed to Iraq as a U.S. Army infantry soldier. While in Baghdad during my 2006 deployment, I was blown up by an IED. I now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Once I was out of the military, I received Roxy as a fully trained PTS Service Dog from Off Leash K9 Training in Asheville, North Carolina. Roxy is trained in basic and advanced obedience, with three Canine Good Citizenship Awards. Roxy has been trained to indicate on my anxiety, so she can help alert me before the PTS gets out of control. She helps provide a distraction, so I can concentrate on something else besides the PTS. She helps me on a daily basis with simple life tasks. If it wasn't for her showing me that it's okay to be in society, I probably wouldn't be here today. I take Roxy to our local V.A. hospital to help share Roxy's ability with other Veterans. We enjoy bringing happiness and joy to the veterans of the V.A. Most people have never seen a pit bull as a service dog, but once they meet Roxy and see what she does, you can tell how much they really enjoy meeting her. We really hope Roxy can be the next top Hero Dog, to help continue to show the world that pit bulls are good dogs, but also amazing service dogs. We appreciate your time in reading our story. Please help Roxy get to the top! Thank you for your support. God bless our Troops and our veterans until they all come home.