Press Releases

Life-Saving Military Service Dog Named Top "American Hero Dog" At The American Humane Association Hero Dog AwardsTM


Hero Dog Awards Premieres on Hallmark Channel November 8, 2012 at 8:00PM ET/PT

Betty White Honored with National Humanitarian Medal and Legacy Award

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 11, 2012  /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Specialized Search Dog Gabe, the life-saving military working dog who served our country by completing more than 210 combat missions with 26 explosive and weapons finds in Iraq, has been named the top American Hero Dog at the American Humane Association Hero Dog AwardsTM, presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., and produced by Emmy® award-winning MRB Productions. Gabe was honored at the second annual Hero Dog Awards with his handler, Sergeant First Class Charles Shuck.


The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America's most courageous canines, hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 6 by Emmy and Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth, was created to celebrate the powerful relationship between dogs and people and recognize extraordinary acts of heroism performed by ordinary dogs. The event will be broadcast nationwide by Hallmark Channel on November 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT. The two-hour program will air as part of Hallmark Channel's PetProject, the network's cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives.

During a nationwide search over the course of six months, hundreds of dogs from all 50 states were nominated and more than three million votes were cast by the American public, culminating in the selection of eight extraordinary canine finalists.

"Tonight we honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our 'best friends' – ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things," said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of American Humane Association. "These courageous canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill, aged and afflicted, bringing hope to those who have lost it and reminding us the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Gabe as the top American Hero Dog for 2012."

The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Whoopi Goldberg, Victoria Stilwell, Candy Spelling, Miranda Lambert, Kristin Bauer Van Straten, Michelle Forbes, J.R. Martinez, Tinsley Mortimer, Megyn Price, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Edie McClurg, Tara Harper, Susan Orlean, Chrishaunda Lee Perez, Ashley Rhodes-Courter and Dr. Debbye Turner Bell.

Red Carpet Treatment

The finalists and their handlers were flown to Los Angeles by JetBlue Airways, Official Airline Sponsor for the 2012 Hero Dog Awards, where they were joined by Atticus, the evening's Grand Marshal Dog, who appeared on behalf of the nation's disabled veterans, four winning dogs from the Hero Dogs Class of 2011, and Michael Hingson, owner of Roselle, the 2011 American Hero Dog, who passed away in June 2011. The four-legged stars were joined by two-legged celebrities as they walked the Red Carpet and posed for a capacity crowd of reporters, video crews and photographers. Actor Joey Lawrence was the Red Carpet host, and broadcast journalist Erik Sandoval served as Special Red Carpet Correspondent.  Special musical guest Jewel performed three songs from her best-selling albums Pieces of You and This Way for the rapt crowd.

An outstanding lineup of celebrity VIPs and presenters that included Michael Vartan, Denise Richards, stylist and philanthropist John Paul DeJoria, Josh Hopkins, Trevor Donovan, Naomi Judd, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Kellie Martin, Jake Pavelka, Pauley Perrette, Jake Austin, Mark Steines, Jenni Pulos, Victoria Stillwell, AJ Cook, Lisa Vanderpump, Jake T. Austin, Bailee Madison, Olympic Gold medalist swimmer Ricky Berens, Megyn Price, and SAG-AFTRA Co-President Ken Howard.

The evening included a special tribute video to SAG-AFTRA for their dedication in supporting American Humane Association's vital work in safeguarding the welfare and safety of every kind of animal on film and television sets around the world through the "No Animals Were Harmed®" certification program.

Betty White Honored

The legendary film and television star Betty White received two prestigious awards from American Humane Association, the National Humanitarian Medal and the Legacy Award. The medal is bestowed on those who reflect the charity's core values of compassion, caring and hope. White earned the Legacy Award by dedicating herself to protecting and improving the quality of life for animals.

All Finalists Winners

Specialized Search Dog Gabe was the finalist in the Military Working Dog category, sponsored by MuttNation Foundation, and won the top prize of American Hero Dog for 2012, but all eight finalists were winners in their categories, and  we salute them for their courage, service and compassion:

  • Soot (Charleston, WV) – Category: Search and Rescue Dog: West Virginia Search and Rescue K-9 Soot, didn't know he had a big job ahead of him when he was adopted by Lorrie 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 grandfather lost in the wilderness on a cold December morning.
  • Holly (Magna, UT) – Category: Service Dog, sponsored by Trupanion.  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.
  • Daniel (Nutley, NJ) – Category: Emerging Hero Dog, sponsored by The Annenberg Foundation. 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 Dwyer, 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. Daniel won in the "emerging hero" category for ordinary dog who do extraordinary things.
  • Tabitha (South Bend, IN) – Category: 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 Anne 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.
  • Tatiana II (Plantation, FL) – Category: Hearing Dog, sponsored by MRB Productions. 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 that is exacerbated by frequent ear infections and one night found herself struggling for breath nearly died. 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.
  • Jynx (Shillington, PA) – Category: Law enforcement/Arson Dog, sponsored by State Farm. 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. Twenty-eight-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.
  • Stella (Mt. Kisco, NY) – Category: Therapy Dog, sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health.  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 unconditionally loving all she meets. Stella is the sunshine that beats the cloudy days for the residents and for that they are so appreciative.

Each of the eight finalists received $5,000 to be donated to one of American Humane Association's charity partners, which include the United States War Dog Association, K9s4COPs, Dogs for the Deaf, Angel on A Leash, International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve, Leader Dogs for the Blind and The Pine Street Foundation. Gabe won an additional $10,000 for the United States War Dog Association.

Generous sponsors of the 2012 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards include: The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., Hallmark Channel, MRB Productions, Trupanion, Pfizer Animal Health, State Farm Insurance, MuttNation Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, Merial Inc., and JetBlue Airways.

The American Humane Association Hero Dog AwardsTM
Now in its second year, the Hero Dog Awards competition searches out and recognizes America's Hero Dogs – often ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things, whether it's saving lives on the battlefield, lending sight or hearing to a human companion, or simply the tail-wagging welcome a pet owner relishes at the end of a hard day.  Dogs compete in eight categories for the Hero Dog Awards: Law Enforcement & Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Guide Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Hearing Dogs and Emerging Hero Dogs (the category for "ordinary" dogs).

About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country's first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we're also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at today.

Hallmark Channel
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. For more information, please visit

Hallmark Channel's Pet Project
Hallmark Channel's Pet Project is a multi-faceted initiative devoted to celebrating pets and the incredible joy and enrichment they bring to our lives. To carry out our mission, we'll be bringing you compelling original programming, social media outreach, and a resource-rich website. Through public service announcements, local grass-roots events, and strategic partnerships with such national non-profit organizations as American Humane Association and PetSmart Charities, Hallmark Channel's Pet Project also aims to shine a spotlight on this country's epidemic of pet homelessness and provide the public with the information and resources they need to find their new best friend. For more information, please visit

Lois Pope and The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation
Lois Pope is one of America's leading philanthropists and humanitarians.  Through her various charitable mechanisms, including the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., she is devoted to saving lives, helping people help themselves, improving the quality of life for families in need and encouraging young Americans to become leaders by helping others.  Her foundations also provide awards for medical research, college scholarships, humanitarian relief, the performing arts, and animal welfare.  Among the many organizations that benefit from her leadership are American Humane Association; the Disabled Veterans' LIFE Memorial Foundation, which she founded to spearhead the development of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the nation's first and only permanent public tribute to the three million living disabled American veterans and the thousands who have died; the University of Miami, where her major contribution endowed the Lois Pope LIFE Center, the top catastrophic neurological research facility in the world and home to the renowned Miami Project to Cure Paralysis;  Leaders in Furthering Education, which has provided a summer camp experience for more than 15,000 disadvantaged and special needs children, as well as college scholarship support to dozens of disadvantaged high school students who aspire to careers as physicians/researchers; Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's Red Cross, for new ambulances; and the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League for a new mobile pet adoption unit.

MRB Productions
MRB's feature department is in post-production on the psychological thriller Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes, starring Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina, while MRB's political activism biopic, starring Jason Biggs, is currently in theaters. Emmy award winning MRB recently won a Webby for The Confession, starring Kiefer Sutherland. In Television, MRB has a decade of experience producing the pre-taped segments and VIP program for ESPN's ESPY Awards, in addition to producing the inaugural Hero Dog Awards for the Hallmark Channel. Additional TV projects include two seasons of the mockumentary comedy show Free Radio on VH1 and Comedy Central. In the video game space, MRB partners with Ubisoft on the Just Dance Kids series. MRB's commercial repertoire includes a longstanding relationship with Mattel and collaborations with Periera & O'Dell, Saatchi & Saatchi and Publicis, for clients such as Samsung, NHL, Smirnoff, Wal-Mart and University of Phoenix.

SOURCE American Humane Association