Courageous Canine, Hooch
Following nearly a million votes by the American public and the opinions of an expert panel of celebrity animal lovers and dog experts, Hooch, a three-year-old French Mastiff from Tehachapi, California, has been named this year’s most courageous canine, beating 173 other heroic hounds and capturing the top title of “American Hero Dog” at the 2016 American Humane Hero Dog Awards®. The sixth annual Hero Dogs Awards is presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc. and will be broadcast nationally on Hallmark Channel October 28 at 8 pm ET/PT, 7 pm Central Time.
Hooch is a dog with badly cropped ears, a broken tail, and a bright spirit. Zach Skow, of Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue, learned about him from a shelter in Bakersfield, which told him Hooch would not eat or drink, instead thrashing his food and water bowls around “like a maniac.” He was 35 pounds underweight, starving and dehydrated, and they thought that a broken or dislocated jaw was causing his behavior. But when he was taken to the vet and sedated for x-raying, a 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. Hooch kept removing his feeding tube, but fortunately took well to being hand-fed, tilting his head back while food was placed in the back of his throat, and letting gravity do the work. Despite the terrible injuries inflicted on him by people, Hooch is a heroic example of bravery, overcoming, and forgiveness. He now works with Marley’s Mutts’ Miracle Mutts division serving as a therapy dog for abused, autistic, and special needs children, helping them with great gentleness, patience and kindness.
For his extraordinary bravery and good works, Hooch won the American Humane Hero Dog Awards’ “Emerging Hero Dog” category for ordinary dogs who do extraordinary things. This year, the Emerging Hero Dog category is sponsored by Merial, maker of NexGard® (afoxolaner) Chewables. Thank you to them for helping draw attention to Hooch’s story and spotlighting the remarkable ways dogs can and do help us even when they themselves were in need of help and healing.
The sold-out, star-studded awards honoring America’s most courageous 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 Pauley Perrette, Alison Sweeney, Barbara Niven, Mark Steines, Bailee Madison, Marilu Henner, Victoria Stilwell, Debbie Matenopoulous, Greg Louganis,Adam Rodriguez, Alex Meneses, Brandon McMillan, Robert Herjavec, Kym Johnson, Jack Wagner, Dave Foley, and Dr. Marty Becker. “Big Bang Theory” star Kaley Cuoco, Mary Matalin and James Carville, and Hero Dog Awards spokes-dog Happy the Dog provided delightful pre-taped video skits.
Katharine McPhee provided the lead musical performances, including a tribute to previous American Humane Hero Dogs who have crossed the rainbow bridge with a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” that brought the audience to tears. A special memorial was also held in honor of last year’s winner, Harley, a tiny, one-eyed Chihuahua who fought to bring attention to the issue of puppy mills. Before the show, the audience was treated to the artistry of The Alex Donner Band. American Idol star and recording artist Stefano Langone sang the national anthem.
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 28 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.
“The American Humane Hero Dog Awards were created to honor some of the most extraordinary heroes the world has ever known, the very best of our best friends,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization. “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 of the powerful, age-old bond between animals and people. All eight category winners tonight exemplify what it means to be a hero, and we hope that their stories – and Hooch’s – will inspire people to value our animal friends and to recognize and honor how much they do for us every day.”
The winner is chosen through a combination of public votes and voting by a panel of animal advocates and celebrity judges including Victoria Stilwell, Jennifer Arnold, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, Philippe and Ashlan Gorse Cousteau, Joanne Horowitz, Blake Koch, Bailee Madison, Adrienne Maloof, AgentJerry Means, Laura Nativo, Shara Strand, Lisa Vanderpump, and Lou Wegner.
All Finalists Are Winners
Hooch was the one chosen as 2016 American Hero Dog, but all eight finalists were winners in their categories, and we salute them for their courage, service and compassion:
Arson Dogs category (sponsored by State Farm®)
Judge (Allentown, PA) – Allentown Fire Department Arson K9 Judge is a seven-year old yellow Labrador retriever who has been in service since early 2011. His handler says Judge is a more vocal than the other arson dogs, but he attributes it to Judge’s outgoing personality and drive to work. Judge is a well-rounded K-9 who thrives in three major areas: investigation, deterrence, and education. As an investigator, Judge has worked more than 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 been in more than 500 fire safety programs and demonstrations for crime watch groups, specialty dog shows, elementary and high school programs, and everything in between. He is now part of a pilot program with autistic children to provide them with lifesaving information. He has been instrumental in making the entire Lehigh Valleyand neighboring communities more aware of fire and life safety.
Guide/Hearing Dogs category (sponsored by Clover Stornetta Farms, the official “Mootastic” sponsor of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)
Hook (Sacramento, CA) – Hook is a 12-pound, 10-year-old hearing dog and goes almost everywhere with his handler. Three years ago the pair was in downtown Sacramento crossing a street. A train was coming that she could not hear because of her impairment. As she was approaching and crossing the track Hook started jumping on her and she did not know why; she could not figure out what he wanted. Then, she stopped and saw people on the street motioning to her. Hook saw the danger ahead that she was not aware of and pulled her from the track. She turned around not knowing why Hook reacted that way, but then saw the train. It had missed her by a foot. Another time a prowler broke into her office when she was in the back room. Scared and sensing a presence in her waiting room, she suddenly saw Hook bolting down the hallway, growling and chasing away the intruder. Hook’s handler is a family therapist and Hook sits beside her chair while she listens to and helps patients. She says that “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 patient’s lap and lick their tears. He has brought smiles to many children, teens, and adults in our practice. Hook is everyone’s hero not just mine.”
Law Enforcement Dogs category (sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™ from Zoetis)
K-9 Edo (Los Angeles, CA) – 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.
Military Dogs category (sponsored by the RIMADYL K-9 Courage Program™ from Zoetis)
Layka (Galena, KS) – In May 2012 Layka’s team was assaulting an enemy compound in an Afghan village, receiving direct rifle fire from the compound. Apache helicopters and Hellfires were brought in to help. Layka was sent into search for injured or live combatants and explosives. Once inside, she engaged an enemy combatant while taking four rounds from an AK-47 to the right shoulder area. Her handler removed her from the building and headed to a predetermined point for extraction where the medics started working on her. She was flown to a base 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 triceps. She was moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to fully recover and was medically retired in August of 2012.
Search and Rescue Dogs category (sponsored by American Airlines, the Official Airline Sponsor of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)
Kobuk (York, ME) – Kobuk is a certified search and rescue dog and a member of the volunteer, non-profit Maine Search & Rescue Dogs team. One of his most successful finds was locating a 77-year-old diabetic with dementia, who had been missing for two nights in the Maine woods without food, water, or her medications. Kobuk’s mission was incredibly time-sensitive. After hours of searching, on the third morning Kobuk’s nose went up into the air, and he took off running two-tenths of a mile to locate her. Kobuk sprinted back to his handler, gave a loud bark (the signal that he had found her), then turned back around and bolted back to the elderly woman with his handler in pursuit. Thankfully, she was found in time to save her life. Kobuk searches with enthusiasm, never quits while someone is still lost in the woods, and he loves to give kids his signature “Kobuk-kisses”
Service Dogs category (sponsored by Modern Dog)
Gander (Great Lakes, IL) – Gander was saved from a Colorado shelter, and was rescued by a women’s prison program in Denver, Colorado for obedience training. He was then trained by Freedom Service Dogs inEnglewood, Colorado. It was there in September 2012 that his handler and Gander became a team. They have not spent one day apart since then and he credits Gander with literally saving his life. In 2014, Gander was the first mixed breed dog to win the American Kennel Club “Award for Canine Excellence.” Gander is on a mission. He travels the United States – 36 states so far – to encourage education and awareness for PTS, veteran suicide, service dogs, and persons with visible and invisible disabilities. While traveling, the team performs Planned Acts of Community Kindness (PACKS), and fundraising. They have 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. The team 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.
Therapy Dogs category (sponsored by Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food, the Official Pet Food of the 2016 Hero Dog Awards)
Mango (Las Cruces, NM) – Mango is a four-year-old paralyzed rescue who was homeless, hit by a car, and scheduled for euthanasia. 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 disabled veterans who suffer from physical disabilities and show them that if a small dog in a wheelchair can overcome her handicap, then so can they. The comfort Mango brings them teaches that “disabled” is only a word and words should never stop our ability to overcome a life-altering, physical change no matter what the handicap may be. Mango also helps other disabled pets through “Mango’s Freedom Wheels,” which purchases wheelchairs for them. Thanks to generous donations, the group has purchased more than 150 custom-built wheelchairs to help other animals regain their ability to be mobile again. She has put cats, dogs, and even a mini-horse and pig into wheelchairs so they can experience the freedom of standing and running once more.
Each of the eight finalists received $2,500 to be donated to one of American Humane’s charity partners. Hooch won an additional $5,000 for his charity, Pets for Patriots. In this way, more heroes may be nurtured.