Alice, the service dog of a boy shot in the head by a man who fired into his parents’ SUV as the family was on the way to dinner was announced Saturday evening in Beverly Hills as the 2019 American Hero Dog.
That shooting occurred in 2015 when Antonio was just 9 years old. He spent 18 days in a coma and has undergone five brain surgeries. An artificial skull covers half of his brain, because a seizure causing a fall could otherwise be fatal. He also suffers from migraines and balance issues.
Antonio was paired with Alice in October 2016.
“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,” Antonio’s mother, Tara, wrote in support of Alice being selected as the finalist in the service dog category for the ninth annual American Humane Hero Dog Awards.
“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 everyday. 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.”
The seven finalists at the ceremony honoring working dogs also included a Catahoula leopard dog from Lancaster.
Piglet and her handler, Lori Wells, dedicate hundreds of hours annually for rescue efforts, including the aftermath of November’s Camp fire in Northern California, the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire.
Piglet assists in locating people on land and in water, including finding a body in a lake on her first day of deployment after human searchers were unable to find it the previous seven days.
The finalist in the search and rescue category has also helped coroners locate enough bones to reconstruct and positively identify the person.
The breed is named for a Louisiana parish.
The other five finalists, who were also each selected as the leading Hero Dog in their categories, were:
— Dax, who has been responsible for apprehending more than 70 suspects for the Lake County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office, and tracking and finding dozens of missing or endangered children and adults.
The finalist in the law enforcement/arson category has been used for more than 100 narcotics searches, resulting in the seizure of more than 17 kilograms of cocaine, heroin and other narcotics.
— Yeager, who detected the locations of dozens of explosive devices during three combat tours with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The finalist in the military dogs category suffered shrapnel wounds and lost part of an ear from the explosion of a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2012 that killed his handler, Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe.
After being medically retired from his Marine Corps duties, Yeager was adopted by a Marine Corps family in North Carolina.
— Gus, who was selected as the finalist in the shelter dog category for bringing attention to the plight of homeless animals and how they suffer.
Gus was found walking aimlessly on a busy street with a severely swollen head and a shoelace tied so tightly it sliced through his flesh into his neck, nearly to the bone. He has prompted more people to foster and adopt dogs from shelters and to help stray dogs.
— Jeanie, who went from being homeless and crippled to becoming a therapy dog and the finalist in the category. She was rescued from rural south Louisiana when she was five months old and adopted after a deformed front leg was removed by a veterinarian.
Jeanie works at the Children’s Advocacy Center, comforting children who are questioned by detectives in physical and sexual abuse cases and violent crimes, including murder.
Jeanie and her owner also volunteer at hospitals, schools, nursing homes, reading programs and veterans homes, attending counseling sessions with amputees and children’s grief therapy groups.
— Leader Dog Lady, who is a black Labrador and guide dog for Hamilton, Michigan resident Dawn Rudolph.
“My world has changed so much since Lady came into my life,” Rudolph wrote in support of Leader Dog Lady becoming the finalist in the guide/hearing dog category. “Leader Dog Lady is my eyes. She guides me to wherever I need to go or do.”
Rudolph wrote that Leader Dog Lady has made her “more independent and much more confident in myself.”
“I see the world through Leader Dog Lady’s eyes and it’s a world where I set goals for us to do,” Rudolph wrote. “We educate about Leader Dogs for the Blind, go to Lions Club Conventions to promote Leader Dogs for the Blind.”
The winner in each category was determined by a combination of votes cast by the public and a panel of judges which included actresses Danielle Fishel and Bailee Madison, actor Erik Estrada and husband-and-wife television hosts and environmental activists Philippe Cousteau Jr. and Ashlan Cousteau.
The American Hero Dog winner is also determined by a combination of votes cast by the public and a panel of judges.
Actor James Denton and television personality and author Beth Stern hosted the ceremony at The Beverly Hilton, which will air Oct. 21 on Hallmark Channel.