The finalists for the Hero Dog Awards and their handlers. Photo courtesy of the American Humane Society
The finalists for the Hero Dog Awards and their handlers. Photo courtesy of the American Humane Society

A previously abused and neglected dog who spent 10 years living in a small cage in a puppy mill was named Saturday as the American Hero Dog of 2015 at the fifth annual American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards at The Beverly Hilton.

Harley, who lives in Berthoud, Colo., became the inspiration for a campaign which has raised the funds to save and provide medical care for more than 500 dogs from puppy mills over the past two years.

The winner from the field of eight finalists was determined by a combination of votes cast by the public and a panel of judges which included country singer Miranda Lambert, television personalities Brooke Hogan, Adrienne Maloof and Lisa Vanderpump and actress Bailee Madison.

All eight finalists received $2,500 for their charity chosen among the awards’ 32 charity partners. Harley earned an additional $5,000 for his charity partner, New Leash on Life, a Washington state-based organization that trains service dogs for veterans and others with disabilities.

The other finalists, who were also each selected as the leading Hero Dog in their category, were:

  • Glory, a bloodhound from Sun Valley who has been trained to track lost pets. Glory has been able to find a cat who crossed a freeway, a Yorkshire terrier mix who had been lost for three days and a Pomeranian found under crates in an outdoor factory nine days after disappearing.
  • Axel, a German shepherd retired Marine Corps Capt. Jason Haag calls his lifesaver. Haag was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury following two combat tours.

“When I finally made it home, I was in a constant state of severe depression and mental agony,” Haag said. “I struggled with alcohol abuse and took more than 30 medications to deal with my debilitating symptoms.

“I was sleeping in my basement with a gun under my pillow.”

Haag said his wife urged him to contact K9s for Warriors, which provides service canines to veterans.

“In combat, every solider is paired up with a battle buddy,” Haag said. “These days, my battle buddy isn’t another Marine. It’s Axel. Day in and day out, he’s by my side, ensuring that I’m in a constant state of peace and not fear.

“Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge from Axel to remind me that I’m out of the combat zone. Other times, Axel goes into full activation mode, using his training to remove me from an environment when a severe panic attack has begun.”

  • Chara, who was originally trained as a signal service dog, but after her handler had a work accident and developed a neurological condition known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy type II with dystonia, she trained herself to detect impending myoclonic dystonic attacks.

Chara was also able to alert her handler, who is hearing impaired, that the monitor in her 2-week-old son’s room had gone off. The son had stopped breathing and would have died if not for Chara’s actions.

  • Dax, a law enforcement dog his human partner credits with saving his life when he climbed into an attic where a suspect was hiding with a shotgun.
  • Glory, a certified accelerant detection canine, whose keen sense of smell enables her handler to confirm or rule out the possibility of arson within a matter of minutes.

Glory is also able to sense which firefighters and paramedics is having a rough day and will spend time with them, helping relieve their stress.

Glory and her handler also visit schools, clubs and organization to promote fire safety, fire prevention and arson awareness.

  • Hudson the Railroad Puppy, a therapy dog found with his two siblings when they were 3 weeks old, badly abused in Albany, New York near the railroad tracks. He became one of the first dogs in New York to be fitted with a prosthetic paw and now visits schools, hospitals and adult day care facilities.
  • Rambo, who was an explosive detection dog with the Marine Corps, then was medically retired in 2012 due to a left shoulder injury that later required him to have that limb amputated. He then became the mascot of the Honor Flight Network, which flies veterans to Washington to visit memorials that honor their service to the nation.

Actor James Denton and television personality Beth Stern hosted the ceremony. Presenters included “NCIS” co-star Pauley Perrette, “Modern Family” co-star Eric Stonestreet, and actresses Danica McKellar and Lea Thompson.

The ceremony will be shown Oct. 30 on Hallmark Channel.

— City News Service

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