WASHINGTON – There are heroes among us and some of them have four legs.
The 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards is down to eight finalists.
The contestants represent service dogs and therapy dogs. Some do search and rescue or law enforcement work. Others were abused and abandoned but now they’re success stories making a difference in people’s lives.
Search and Rescue Dogs: Bretagne’s deployments include the World Trade Center following the Sept. 11 terror attacks and Hurricane Rita in 2005. Bretagne retired in 2008 but now serves as a search and rescue dog ambassador visiting elementary schools where she helps first graders learn to read.
Therapy Dogs: Susie was beaten so badly by a previous owner he knocked out her teeth, broke her jaw, and set her on fire, which burned off her ears. Now Susie is a certified therapy dog spreading love at schools, hospitals, and churches.
Arson Dogs: Kai was found wandering the streets, was picked up by animal control, given up by her original family and now is a shelter success story working as an accelerant detection canine in San Antonio. Kai also does school demonstrations to teach children about fire prevention and safety.
Service Dogs: JJ Krawczyk gives early warning to parents and teachers when 5-year-old KK is about to have a medical emergency that can range from mild to life threatening. KK has a rare disorder called Mastocytosis. JJ can detect Mastocytosis related flare ups using her nose.
Guide/Hearing Dogs: Xxon serves as a wingman for Michael Malarsie, who is retired from the Air Force and lost his eyesight in an explosion in Afghanistan. “Because of Xxon, I’m part of society again. He’s my hero every day, and I can’t imagine life without him,” Malarsie says.
Military Dogs: Chaney served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan finding improvised explosive devices. Now he helps train service dogs for children with autism and disabled veterans who may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
Emerging Hero Dogs: Xena the Warrior Puppy is known for amazing transformations. Found abused and emaciated before being adopted, she bounced back quickly and has transformed an isolated 8-year-old with autism into a chatterbox who sings to his puppy constantly.
Law Enforcement Dogs: Kota’s raw dedication and determination was especially evident when she continued pursuing a burglary suspect after falling 8 feet from an upstairs crawl space and severely breaking her elbow and upper front leg.
For winning their categories, these hero dogs are awarded $1,500 for a charity chosen from the contest’s list of charity partners. The top winner receives another $5,000 for their charity partner. American’s top Hero Dog will be named Saturday, Sept. 27.