In what is clearly shaping up to be the most popular and unifying campaign of 2012, Americans of every political persuasion have come together in unprecedented numbers, casting more than two million votes to select the finalists in the 2012 "American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards." From an outstanding field of hundreds of four-legged heroes representing every U.S. state, eight of America's top dogs were chosen as winners in their specialized category, one in each of the following areas: Law Enforcement and Arson Dogs; Service Dogs; Therapy Dogs; Military Dogs; Guide Dogs; Search and Rescue Dogs; Hearing Dogs; and Emerging Hero Dogs, honoring ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things.
These eight super dogs will travel with their guardians to Beverly Hills for a star-studded, red-carpet gala and award ceremony featuring VIP presenter Betty White and other canine-loving celebrities, to be held in the ballroom of the landmark Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, October 6. Each finalist will be presented with a Hero Dog award for their feats of loyalty, bravery, and love, and win $5,000 for a selected charity partner. In addition, announced live from our stage, one finalist will walk away with top honors as the winning American Hero Dog for 2012, securing an additional $10,000 for their charity partner. The Hero Dog Awards, which are presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and produced by Emmy(R) award-winning MRB Productions, will air as a 90-minute special Friday, November 2 on Hallmark Channel as part of Pet Project, the network's cross-platform campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.
"The many ways in which dogs enrich, protect, and save our lives is nothing short of remarkable," says Bill Abbott, president and CEO, Crown Media Family Networks. "Hero Dog Awards is a fitting tribute to our eight finalists, and shines a spotlight on countless canine heroes worldwide who make extraordinary contributions on our behalf every day."
"Each dog who was nominated is a bona fide hero," says Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. "Every day, across America, dogs protect, comfort, and give their unconditional friendship and affection to the ill, the infirm, the wounded veteran, and the frightened child. For millennia, dogs have truly been our best friends and it is time to recognize that friendship and celebrate the heroic feats they perform for us daily. We thank them, their owners and handlers, and the generous sponsors who have helped bring about that recognition - The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Hallmark Channel, MRB Productions, Pfizer Animal Health, State Farm, Trupanion, Merial, Zoom Room, PetHub, Dog Is Good, Modern Dog magazine, KONG, and Zuke's. Thank you all!"
The Hero Dog Awards program was created by the American Humane Association to recognize and honor the powerful relationship between dogs and people. The annual national competition searches out and recognizes America's Hero Dogs who unconditionally avail themselves to us in so many important ways, whether it's saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, providing therapeutic support to those suffering from cancer or other terminal illnesses, or helping autistic children find their voice and connect with the world.
And the Winners Are....
Gabe/Charles Shuck, guardian
MILITARY DOG CATEGORY
Winner: GABE (Columbia, SC) - Retired MWD Sgt. Gabe has served our great country since 2006 when he first reported for duty. From training in Ft. Lewis, WA to completing over 210 combat missions with 26 explosive and weapons finds in Iraq, MWD Sgt. Gabe still made time throughout the day to bring love and joy to his comrades. Since retiring in 2009, MWD Sgt. Gabe has earned over 40 awards and coins of excellence for his heroic work and spends his free time educating children on the value of respect and staying in school. (Charity Partner: The United States War Dog Association, Inc.)
Daniel/Joe Dawyer, guardian
EMERGING HERO CATEGORY
Winner: DANIEL (Nutley, NJ) - Daniel, a beagle from an Alabama shelter on "death row," did the unimaginable in 2011 when he survived the most inhumane form of euthanasia, the gas chamber. Since adopted by his loving guardian, Joe Dawyer, Daniel the "Miracle Beagle" has used his second chance at life as an advocate for shelter adoptions and humane euthanasia legislation across the United States. (Charity Partner: The Pine Street Foundation).
Tabitha/Ann Drake, former guardian
GUIDE DOG CATEGORY
Winner: TABITHA (South Bend, IN) - Guide dog Tabitha is more than just a guide dog to her former guardian, Ann Drake, who lost her sight as an adult. Tabitha guided Ann back to a place within herself where she found the confidence that she had lost and overcame the fears of her new life. With Tabitha by her side, Ann went on to complete her undergraduate and graduate studies. (Charity Partner: Leader Dogs for the Blind).
Jynx/Sgt. Kyle Pagerly; Alecia Pagerly, guardian
LAW ENFORCEMENT/ARSON DOG CATEGORY, sponsored by State Farm
Winner: JYNX (Shillington, PA) - On the evening of June 29, 2011, Law Enforcement-Arson K-9 Jynx desperately worked to try and pull his guardian Sgt.Kyle Pagerly and another officer out of harm's way as a crime suspect opened fire during a routine warrant delivery. 28-year-old Sgt. Pagerly was killed in the line of duty leaving behind his pregnant wife. If not for the swift and heroic efforts of K-9 Jynx, more officers would have lost their lives that night. (Charity Partner: K9s4COPs).
Tatiana/Cristina Saint-Blancard, guardian
HEARING DOG CATEGORY, sponsored by MRB Productions
Winner: TATIANA II (Plantation, FL) -- Hearing dog, Tatiana II, was matched with handler Cristina Saint-Blancard in 2011 as her hearing dog but quickly turned into her life-saving hero. Cristina suffers from asthma which is exacerbated by frequent ear infections and one night found herself struggling for breath and soon completely without breath. Tatiana II was quick to notice something was wrong and ran into the next room to alert Cristina's family. If not for Tatiana II that night, Cristina would not have gone on to graduate from Purdue University last December with Tatiana II by her side. (Charity Partner: Dogs for the Deaf).
Soot/Lorraine Burdette, guardian
SEARCH AND RESCUE DOG CATEGORY
Winner: SOOT (Charleston, WV) - West Virginia Search and Rescue K-9 Soot, didn't know he had a big job ahead of him when he was adopted by Lorraine Burdette. Soot's training in air scent, scent discrimination, and certified search and rescue wilderness training gave him the tools he needed to rescue a lost 78-year-old diabetic hunter lost in the wilderness on a cold December morning. (Charity Partner: The Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve).
Holly/Shanna Wilkinson, guardian
SERVICE DOG CATEGORY, sponsored by Trupanion
Winner: HOLLY (Magna, UT) - Seizure alert Service Dog Holly never takes her attention away from her guardian, Shanna Wilkinson, who suffers from epileptic seizures. With Holly by her side, Shanna is able to embrace all of life's gifts and challenges without fear. Together they travel and together they teach elementary students the importance of Service Dogs. (Charity Partner: International Association of Assistance Dog Partners).
Stella/Stacy Lynn Rivera, entrant; Marissa Levy, guardian
THERAPY DOG CATEGORY, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health
Winner: STELLA (Mt. Kisco, NY) - Therapy Dog Stella and her guardian Marissa Levy, dedicate their time to bringing love and joy to the residents at Richmond Community Services, a not-for-profit organization that cares for developmentally disabled children and adults. Stella is unfazed by disabilities and diseases - befriending and with time, unconditionally loving all she meets. Stella is the sunshine that beats the cloudy days for the residents and for that they are so appreciative. (Charity Partner: Angel On A Leash).
Phase II Hero Dog Voting Now in Progress with All-Star Judging Panel
The final phase of this exciting journey to select the winning 2011 American Hero Dog has now begun with voting by the public (cast your ballot at www.herodogawards.org) and an all-star panel of judges including Whoopi Goldberg, Victoria Stilwell, Candy Spelling, Kristin Chenoweth, Miranda Lambert, Michelle Forbes, Megyn Price, J.R. Martinez, Susan Orlean, Kristin Bauer Van Straten, Chrishaunda Lee Perez, CBS-TV's Dr. Debbye Turner Bell, ABC-TV's Dr. Marty Becker, Tinsley Mortimer, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Tara Harper, Edie McClurg, Christie Brooke, Ashley Rhodes-Courter, and the handlers and owners of last year's winners Jerry Means, Nancy Otte, Michael Hingson, Patti Kennedy, Maria Mandel, Debbie Kandoll, and Diane Whetsel, who will help choose the Grand Prize Winner from among the finalists. The judging period will continue until midnight on October 5.
Table sales and sponsorship information for the Hero Dog Awards gala is available at www.herodogawards.org or by calling (866) 242-1877.
Hallmark Channel, owned and operated by Crown Media Holdings, Inc., is a 24-hour basic cable network that provides a diverse slate of high-quality entertainment programming available in high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) to a national audience of over 87 million subscribers. The top-tier program service is distributed through approximately 5,500 cable systems and communities as well as direct-to-home satellite services across the country. Hallmark Channel is the nation's leading destination for quality family programming with an ambitious slate of original TV movies and specials, as well as some of television's most beloved sitcoms and series, including The Golden Girls, Frasier, Little House on the Prairie, and The Waltons. Since 2010, Hallmark Channel has also been home to original daytime lifestyle programming and is debuting two new daily series, Home & Family and Marie, on October 1, 2012. Hallmark Channel's sibling network is Hallmark Movie Channel, also available in HD and SD, which focuses on family-friendly movies with a mix of classic theatrical films, presentations from the acclaimed HallMark Hall of Fame library, original Hallmark Channel movies and special events.