LOS ANGELES, October 6, 2019 – Based on more than a million votes by the American public and the deliberations of a panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts, Alice, a five-year-old German Shepherd from Nicholasville, Kentucky, has been named the nation’s most heroic canine, besting 360 other competitors across the country and capturing the top title of “American Hero Dog” at the 2019 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®. The ninth annual Hero Dogs Awards is sponsored by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc. and Zoetis, and will be broadcast nationally as a two-hour special on Hallmark Channel October 21 at 8:00 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central.
In 2015, Antonio was a normal, playful nine-year old who loved soccer and his friends. Then, on a normal day, while riding in the back of his parents’ SUV with his younger brothers on the way to a family dinner, a man fired three to five bullets into their car and shot him in the head. Since that day Antonio has been fighting the battle of a lifetime. He spent 18 days in a coma and has endured five brain surgeries. Nearly four years later, an artificial skull covers half of Antonio’s brain, because a seizure causing a fall could be fatal. Antonio not only battles seizures, but migraines, balance issues, spells and more. In October of 2016, Antonio was paired with his service dog, Alice, from Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs in Florida. His mom, Tara, says, “Alice is a hero in our eyes, because without her, Antonio would not be able to do the simple things in life that we take for granted.” Going to school, the store, or even just a walk outside would be impossible for him. Never once has Alice failed to alert to an oncoming seizure or “spell” and she assists him with his balance issues. Alice has given Antonio the chance at a new normal life he couldn’t have had without her. She is a loyal and loving hero every day. She’s saved Antonio’s life many times. She is his guardian angel and helps him live his new normal to the fullest extent possible.
For her extraordinary bravery and good works, Alice won the American Humane Hero Dog Awards’ Hero Service Dog category. This year, the category is sponsored by Lulu’s Fund. We thank them for helping draw attention to Alice‘s story and spotlighting dogs’ life-changing and life-saving capabilities.
The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America’s most heroic canines were hosted at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last night by television and film star James Denton and model and animal advocate Beth Stern, accompanied by a galaxy of celebrity stars and presenters including Kristin Chenoweth (“Wicked,” “The West Wing”), Shannen Doherty (“Beverly Hills 90210”), Trevor Donovan (“Love, Fall & Order,” “SnowComing”), Danielle Fishel (“Girl Meets World”), Vivica A. Fox (“Empire”), Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Other People’s Houses”), Jenna Johnson (“Dancing with the Stars”), Ally Maki (“Toy Story 4,” “Dear White People”), Debbie Matenopoulos (“Home & Family”), Cameron Mathison (“Home & Family”), Wendi McLendon-Covey (“The Goldbergs”), Brandon McMillan (“Lucky Dog”), Barbara Niven (“Christmas in Evergreen,” “Chesapeake Shores”), Kris Polaha (“Mystery 101,” “Wonder Woman 1984”), Roselyn Sanchez (“A Taste of Summer,” “Grand Hotel”), Ariel Winter (“Modern Family”), Eric Winter (“A Taste of Summer,” “The Rookie”), Larissa Wohl (“Home & Family”), and Sofia Wylie (“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”).
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 event will be broadcast nationwide by Hallmark Channel on October 21 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central. The program will air as part of Hallmark Channel’s Pet Project, the network’s cross-platform advocacy campaign designed to celebrate the joy and enrichment animals bring to our lives. During American Humane’s annual “Adopt-a-Dog Month” this October, the organization is teaming up with Hallmark Channel’s “Adoption Ever After” campaign to help get more of the millions of beautiful animals left in shelters each year into forever homes.
“The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the world’s most extraordinary heroes,” said Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. “These heroic canines have gone above and beyond the call of duty, saving lives on the battlefield, comforting the ill and aged, and reminding us of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. All seven category winners exemplify what it means to be a hero, and we hope that their stories – and Alice’s – will inspire people to value our animal friends and to recognize how much they do for us every day.”
“It is an honor to support an effort to recognize the best of our best friends,” said philanthropist Lois Pope, the awards’ Platinum Presenting Sponsor. “From those who defend our country to those who help us heal, guide us, protect us, and help find the lost, every single contender exemplifies the courage and heroism we seek to spotlight in the Hero Dog Awards campaign. Through this national forum we have helped underscore the lifesaving, life-affirming work of our nation’s canine heroes.”
“Animals are our best friends, enriching, improving, and sometimes even saving our lives,” said Tara Bidgood, DVM, PhD, DACVCP, executive director, Zoetis Petcare Veterinary Professional Services. “As an organization dedicated to improving and saving the lives of those best friends, we are proud to serve as the corporate sponsor of the 2019 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.”
“Hallmark Channel is proud to have the American Humane Hero Dog Awards serve as the focal point of our Adoption Ever After initiative,” said Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks. “Adoption Ever After is our on- and off-air advocacy and awareness initiative designed to celebrate the joy pets bring to our lives, shine a spotlight on the wonderful animals in shelters across the country, and promote adoption.”
The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Erik Estrada, Danielle Fishel, Maria Goodavage, Carolyn Hennesy, Bailee Madison, Adrienne Maloof, Agent Jerry Means, Laura Nativo, Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, and Amy Purdy.
All Finalists Are Winners
Alice was the one chosen as 2019 American Hero Dog, but all seven finalists were the nation’s top 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:
2019 Law Enforcement/Arson Hero Dog, category sponsored by Zoetis, makers of Simparica® (sarolaner)
“Dax” from Libertyville, IL – Dax began his successful career with the Lake County (IL) Sheriff’s Office almost four years ago. He has been directly responsible for tracking and successfully apprehending over 70 suspects. Dax has also been accountable for tracking and finding dozens of missing or endangered children and adults. Dax has been used for over 100 narcotic searches resulting in the seizure of over 17 kilos of cocaine, heroin and other narcotics, hundreds of pounds of cannabis, approximately three quarters of a million dollars in currency, dozens of firearms, and vehicles. Dax’s top deployments in 2018 included tracking and locating a dangerous domestic violence offender who forced his way into a home and then battered and choked a woman until she lost consciousness; capturing a robbery suspect even after the offender struck Dax repeatedly; and, apprehending a wanted fugitive (who was allegedly armed) hiding in the attic of a home covered in fiberglass insulation. Dax saved the lives of citizens and deputies in late 2018 when he tracked a fugitive who had allegedly committed a burglary, was in the process of stealing a vehicle from its owner, and then brandished a gun at pursuing deputies. The fugitive was charged with attempted murder and several other felonies after being located by Dax. Dax’s tireless drive, dedication to training, love for police work, and incredible success stories have gained him thousands of supporters from across the country. Dax has proven to be an outstanding K9 hero!
2019 Shelter Hero Dog, category sponsored by Hallmark Channel
“Gus” from Houston, TX – Gus was found walking aimlessly down a busy street with a head so severely swollen, you couldn't tell he was a dog. A shoelace was tied so tightly on him that it sliced through his flesh in his neck almost to the bone. Through his recovery he gained thousands of well-wishers from all over the country and other countries, as well. He brought attention to the plight of homeless animals and how they suffer. His good nature and compliance through all his very difficult procedures and surgeries have given people hope and something to cheer for. He has been the glue for people from all over the world who look to him for some good in this seemingly uncaring climate. His innocence and sweetness transcend cultural differences and indifference to the homeless dog crisis in Houston and other cities facing the same situation. Because of him and his message, more people are fostering and adopting dogs from shelters, as well as stopping to help the stray dog that is only looking for something to eat and a gentle touch. People are taking notice and getting more involved in animal welfare. I believe Gus came to us with a specific purpose and mission. He is the tender soul who opens hearts and helps people know that there are more Gusses out there who are just as special as he is, and that we all can do something to help and not just turn away. #gusstrong #iamgus
2019 Guide/Hearing Hero Dog, category sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food
“Leader Dog Lady” from Hamilton, MI – I’m legally blind. Leader Dog Lady is my guide dog. My world has changed so much since Lady came into my life. Leader Dog Lady is my eyes and she guides me to wherever I need to go and helps me with whatever I need to do. We go on a plane once or twice a year. I love life because I have Leader Dog Lady by my side. I’m more independent and much more confident. I see the world through Leader Dog Lady’s eyes and it’s a world where I set goals for us for the year. Friends and family always ask what Leader Dog Lady and my adventures are going to be. My life is busy because of Lady. We educate people about Leader Dogs for the Blind, go to Lions Club conventions to promote Leader Dogs for the Blind. We attend big events and fundraisers for this wonderful organization. July will be our four-year anniversary as a team. Leader Dog Lady loves to work and I feel safe crossing busy intersections, getting on a plane, or walking three miles. She goes to work with me and my co-workers love her. There is nothing we can’t do. Leader Dog Lady is so smart and she’s a very beautiful Black Lab. When out in public, people are looking at Leader Dog Lady and not asking me a ton of questions about my vision. Because of Lady I’m more social and more comfortable. I love and trust her more than people. To be a good working team, this is very important. I am nominating Leader Dog Lady for Hero Dog. She is my HERO!!
2019 Military Hero Dog, category sponsored by Zoetis, makers of Apoquel® (oclacitinib tablet)
“Sgt. Yeager” from Cary, NC – Sergeant Yeager honorably performed combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Improvised Explosive Detection Dog with the United States Marine Corps. Sgt. Yeager has been credited with detecting the locations of dozens of explosive devices. During his three combat tours, Sgt. Yeager participated in over 100 patrols, and was tasked with clearing routes for his fellow Marines. On April 12, 2012, Sgt. Yeager suffered shrapnel wounds from an IED that caused him to lose part of his ear. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries. Unfortunately, the same explosion took the life of his handler, Lance Corporal Abraham Tarwoe. The pair was virtuously trying to protect the other Marines in the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Fellow Marines attest to the unbreakable bond between Tarwoe and Sgt. Yeager. After the attack, Sgt. Yeager was transported back to the U.S. and treated for his injuries until he was stable enough to retire from the USMC. Lance Corporal Tarwoe’s widow was unable to adopt Sgt. Yeager as she would now be raising their infant son alone. Sgt. Yeager was adopted by another Marine Corps family. Today, at 12 years of age, Sgt. Yeager is beginning to show signs of aging, though his spirit is undiminished. Despite his trials and witnessing acts of terrorism, Yeager remains a sweet dog with an infinitely joyful disposition. He has settled in North Carolina with his family, where he is an ambassador for the Project K-9 Hero Foundation, which pays 100% of his medical bills from his sustained injuries.
2019 Search and Rescue Hero Dog, category sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food
“Piglet” from Lancaster, CA – Piglet is the best friend of Winnie The Pooh. But there’s another “Piglet” in town: an eight-year-old Catahoula Leopard Dog. This Piglet, a veteran search and rescue dog, is trained and certified to help families in arduous times. Nothing could have prepared Piglet and handler Lori Wells for the inconceivable conditions on a recent deployment. Called to aid in the aftermath of the horrific “Camp Fire” in Paradise, California, this little dog deployed to do all she could to help. Piglet provides a vital service. The value of her work in bringing answers to grieving families is immeasurable. She assists in locating people on land and in water. Once, human searchers spent seven days combing a lake with no luck. On day eight, Piglet deployed and located the subject. She helped the coroner by locating enough bones to reconstruct and positively identify the individual. Lori and Piglet donate hundreds of volunteer hours annually and depart for each call-out with enthusiasm. Traveling thousands of miles a year does not diminish Piglet’s bubbly personality and happy-go-lucky attitude. In her off hours, she loves making friends. At events she’s always a crowd-pleaser with a wagging tail, signature “smile,” and endless kisses. Perhaps this is what makes Piglet a unique search and rescue dog. Her famous namesake’s creator was said to have shared advice appropriate for those survivors who this dedicated K9 helps reunite: “If there ever comes a time when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.”
2019 Therapy Hero Dog
“Jeanie” from Lake Charles, LA – This three-legged rescue went from being homeless and crippled to becoming a certified therapy dog. Jeanie was rescued from a rural area in south Louisiana when she was five months old and was adopted after a deformed front leg was removed by a local vet. Jeanie works for the Children’s Advocacy Center, where she comforts children who are questioned by detectives working on physical and sexual abuse cases, violent crimes, and even homicides. She and her owner volunteer at hospitals, schools, nursing homes, reading programs, and veterans’ homes, where Jeanie bonds with fellow amputees. Jeanie attends counseling sessions with amputees and children’s grief therapy groups. She comforts students during finals week and visits schools’ special education classes. Jeanie spent a day with traumatized elementary students who witnessed a shooting in their classroom. She helped an apprehensive child speak to officers after witnessing a murder/suicide. A depressed veterans’ home resident who suffered with dementia was joyful and content during a visit with Jeanie. In cases like these, Jeanie’s presence eases stress levels and provides a calm and joyful diversion. Jeanie deserves to be the American Hero Dog because she gives love and comfort to those who need it most, especially frightened and traumatized children. She hopes to inspire other counseling, advocacy and law enforcement agencies to consider the benefits of therapy dogs like her.
Special Tribute to a Hero of Veterans and Animals
During the awards, a special video tribute was presented, honoring a lifetime of advocacy for veterans and animals by internationally renowned philanthropist Lois Pope. Called “America’s First Lady of Compassion,” Mrs. Pope has sponsored the Hero Dog Awards for eight years, supported the creation of American Humane’s Lois Pope LIFE Center for Military Affairs, which supports our servicemen, servicewomen, and military animals, and was the driving force behind the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Nation’s Veterinary Superstars Honored
Behind every hero pet is a hero vet or vet nurse. That’s why each year at the Hero Dog Awards, American Humane also announces the winners of its nationwide Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards. Dr. Terry Morris from Durham, North Carolina was named 2019’s American Hero Veterinarian, and Angel Martin of Lawrenceville, Georgia was declared 2019’s American Hero Veterinary Nurse.
“To us, all vets and vet techs are heroes and this is why we want to honor the best of the best in their fields,” said Robin Ganzert, PhD, American Humane president and CEO. “Indeed, Dr. Morris and Ms. Martin are tremendous animal welfare advocates and we are so proud to learn of their laudable accomplishments aiding the animals in need in their communities and beyond. And our thanks go out to our friends at Zoetis for sponsoring this special national campaign because we know how committed they are to recognizing the achievements of the veterinary community.”
“Veterinary professionals are the heroes who dedicate their lives to making a difference in both animals’ and their owners’ lives through their outstanding veterinary care and we are honored to show our support through sponsoring these awards,” said Tara Bidgood, DVM, PhD, DACVCP, Executive Director, Veterinary Professional Services, Zoetis Petcare. “Dr. Morris and Angel have provided life-saving services to many animals and their inspiring work continues to strengthen the powerful human-animal bond between pets and the families who love them.”
Former Hero Dog Awards Host and Animal Advocate Kristin Chenoweth Wins Surprise Award
Broadway, TV, film and recording star Kristin Chenoweth, who has hosted the Hero Dog Awards and served as a judge, received Hallmark’s “Adoption Ever After” award for her longtime work in animal advocacy. The award, which brought an ovation from the 600+ guests at the Hero Dog Awards gala, was presented by close friend, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
And Thanks to Sponsors
Finally, American Humane recognized those who support the Hero Dog Awards and made them possible. “We thank the many generous sponsors who have helped shine a light on these heroes,” said Dr. Ganzert. “Our deepest thanks to Platinum Presenting Sponsor Lois Pope and the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation; Corporate Presenting Sponsor Zoetis; Broadcast Partner Hallmark Channel; American Airlines, the official airline of the 2019 Hero Dog Awards; Hero Veterinarian and Hero Veterinary Nurse Awards sponsor Zoetis; Shelter Hero Dog category sponsor Hallmark Channel; Military Hero Dog sponsor Zoetis, makers of Apoquel® (oclacitinib tablet); Service Hero Dog sponsor Lulu’s Fund; the Guide/Hearing Hero Dog and Search and Rescue Hero Dog sponsor Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food; and Law Enforcement/Arson Hero Dog category sponsor Zoetis, makers of Simparica® (sarolaner). Dogs may be our best friends, but these caring organizations are theirs.”
About American Humane
American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit www.americanhumane.org.
About Lois Pope, The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., and LIFE (Leaders in Furthering Education)
As one of America's leading philanthropists, Lois Pope has positively impacted the lives of individuals at the local, national and international levels. She has established three separate organizations dedicated to helping those in need. These organizations are the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., Leaders In Furthering Education (LIFE), and the Disabled Veterans' LIFE Memorial Foundation. For more than 20 years she has been the driving force behind the Lois Pope LIFE Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, and a groundbreaking new program with American Humane in Palm Beach County. Lois Pope has recently donated several Lois Pope Rescue Vehicles. Each rescue vehicle is a 50-foot long response unit, complete with a Ford F-350 truck and trailer, which is specifically designed and outfitted to provide an array of animal emergency services and cruelty responses within the region.
On Oct. 5, 2014, Mrs. Pope saw the completion of a decades-long dream – the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated by President Obama in Washington DC. It will stand in perpetuity as a reminder to the public and legislators of the courage and sacrifices of the four million-plus living disabled veterans and all those who died before them, as well as the need to be vigilant in assuring their support and understanding the human cost of war. Through her advocacy, October 5 every year will serve as a National Day of Honor for disabled veterans.
A mother and a grandmother, Lois has trained for and completed five New York City Marathons.
About Hallmark Channel
Hallmark Channel is Crown Media Family Networks’ flagship 24-hour cable television network, distributed nationwide in high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) to 88 million homes. As the country’s leading destination for quality family entertainment, Hallmark Channel delivers on the 100-year legacy of the Hallmark brand. In addition to its signature new, original movies, the network features an ambitious lineup of other new, original content, including scripted primetime series, such as “Good Witch,” “When Calls the Heart” and “Chesapeake Shores”; annual specials including “Kitten Bowl” and “Hero Dog Awards”; and a daily, two-hour lifestyle show, “Home & Family.” Additionally, Hallmark Channel is the exclusive home to world premiere presentations of the acclaimed Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise. Dedicated to helping viewers celebrate life’s special moments, Hallmark Channel also offers annual holiday programming franchises, including “Countdown to Christmas,” “Countdown to Valentine’s Day,” “Summer Nights,” “Fall Harvest” and “Winterfest.” Rounding out the network’s diverse slate are some of television’s most beloved comedies and series, including “The Golden Girls” and “Frasier.”
Hallmark Cards, Inc. owns and operates Crown Media Family Networks.
For more information, please visit www.crownmediapress.com
To visit the network website, please visit www.hallmarkchannel.com
Zoetis is the leading animal health company, dedicated to supporting its customers and their businesses. Building on more than 65 years of experience in animal health, Zoetis discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products, which are complemented by biodevices, genetic tests and a range of services. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals with sales of its products in more than 100 countries. In 2018, the company generated annual revenue of $5.8 billion with approximately 10,000 employees. For more information, visit www.zoetis.com.
About Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food
Chicken Soup for the Soul has been providing super-premium pet food for over 15 years.
The company makes dry and wet dog and cat food as well as treats that are available at independent pet specialty stores nationwide and select products are available online. The company’s mission is to help all pets eat well through its affordable pricing and its work with shelters and pets in need. A portion of all proceeds from the sale of Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food goes to Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Fill-a-Bowl… Feed-a-Soul™ program. The program, which was launched in 2016 in association with the American Humane, provides over a million meals annually to shelter pets.
About Lulu’s Fund
Lulu’s Fund, which is part of the Timothy T. Day Foundation, was founded in 2012. Named after the Day’s beloved pug Lulu, who went to the Rainbow Bridge on June 28, 2019, Lulu’s Fund continues to honor her life through the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to supporting organizations in the animal rescue community throughout the United States. Organizations that receive support from Lulu’s Fund are primarily those that rescue abused, neglected and abandoned dogs. Their focus is to treat existing medical issues, provide spay and neuter services, place dogs in safe foster homes, and ultimately find forever homes for the animals. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.tdayfoundation.org.
About American Airlines Group – Our Heroes
American Airlines Group – Our Heroes – has a longstanding tradition of serving those who serve our nation dating back to 1926. Today more than 7,000 of American’s 130,000 team members are veterans or still serving in the National Guard or Reserve component. Our initiatives include providing support to several organizations including; The Medal of Honor Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation and Airpower Foundation’s Sky Ball through mileage donations, charter flight assistance and workforce development opportunities. For more information about the ways American Airlines supports members of the military, veterans and their families, please visit aa.com/military
(Credit: American Humane)