Read Lola’s 2013 Hero Dog Award Experience

As the AHA put it so well at the Hero Dog Awards Gala, October 5, 2013 in Hollywood, ‘Behind every hero dog is a large group of dedicated VIP supporters and volunteers who embody the spirit of being humane, generously giving their talents, time, and abundance” that others — such as ourselves — might live as well or live more fully. How your words and this experience speak to me now!

What an eye opener and spirit lifter the Third Annual Hero Dog Awards Gala at the Beverly Hilton in LA has been for us: For finalist Lola, my hearing service dog, her daily commitment to me was recognized and saluted in extraordinary fashion. From being rescued from a shelter to being my rescuer, her compassionate unsung loyalty and response to my needs embody the purpose for which AHA stands: “to unleash the full potential of the bond between humans and animals to the mutual benefit of both.”
Indeed our interdependence gives Lola and me a greater sense of independence than either of us would have achieved alone.

Heartfelt thanks to all who contributed in so many ways to the AHA Hero Dog Awards in which we have been so celebrated. While my deafness tends to diminish the quality of my life, your work has lifted my spirits to a higher plane. It causes me to appreciate my Lola even more and reminds me that we are not alone.

Although Lola and I are already Goodwill Ambassadors for Dogs for the Deaf, count us in as some of the newest good will ambassadors for the American Humane Association as well.

With great respect,
Charlene MacKenzie and Lola


John D’s 2013 Hero Dog Awards Experience

For the last six months, The American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards program has allowed me to tell the world about my dog. John D is a Search and Rescue dog, human cancer detective and all around humanitarian. I have always had the unique privilege of watching this amazing animal at work because I hold the other end of his leash. And although we go on searches together, it was always John D who steadfastly led the way. Through the AHA’s program to celebrate the heroic acts of dogs, I was given the opportunity to take the lead and share his story.

With so many inspiring stories, we were honored and humbled for John D’s service to earn the title 2013 Search and Rescue Hero dog of the Year. Messages of support and encouragement from people around the country, and then around the world, poured in. John D would never again be just MY hero; now he belonged to everyone. My dog’s experiences as he rescued and recovered people in terrible situations, and our fervent hope to bring earlier detection of human cancers to the public, created a huge team of supporters. People we will never meet began to hope with us and hope for us. It was nothing short of amazing. Through the incredible AHA Hero Dog Awards, John D has become part of so many lives. He has friends across the world…this dog who started life in a shelter… from Little Rock, Arkansas.

John D has never let me down. The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards understood. That’s why they’ve been the voice of animals and children for 136 years. The AHA gave me the opportunity to share John D with others. We were part of a huge gathering of dog lovers and animal advocates in Hollywood on October 5th. We joined together to celebrate all things DOG! We shared a wonderful weekend with glitz and glamor, a star-studded cast, celebrities, incredible talent, inspirational tributes, throngs of new friends and real life dog heroes, and it all boiled down to just one thing…
we love our dogs.

On the plane ride home, it was John D and I. He slipped his paw into my hand and it was perfect.

Thank you, American Humane Association. You gave us a voice and we can never thank you enough.

Donna and John D


Jingle’s 2013 Hero Dog Awards Experience

My little Jingles – joy unbounded, dripping with charm and personality and as superb a guide dog as one can be – now holds the prestigious title (I’m proud to say!) of American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards’ Guide Dog Hero 2013! Wow… just wow!

I nominated Jingles for the Guide Dog category because she is half of the extraordinary tandem team who are my personal heroes… the Dynamic Duo of Service Dogdom are my Jingles and Maizie (Diabetic Alert Dog). In my heart of hearts I felt ours to be a story worth sharing. Never did I imagine some six months later we’d be flown to Hollywood, treated like royalty, meet up with 7 other wonderful people and their equally as inspiring hero dogs and have the awesome opportunity to have our story told to a national audience! This is the stuff of dreams in my very mundane life.

Most of the Hollywood experience is a blur to me… yes, pun intended. I have been legally blind since birth, but lost the majority of my functional vision to Diabetic Retinopathy in my late teens. That old adage “blind in one eye, can’t see out of the other”? That’s me. Through Jingles’ eyes my independence and travel mobility has been greatly enhanced, but she was far too busy being a star at the Beverly Hilton to act as an interpreter for me and describe all the sights around us. So I did as I have done my whole life… I took pictures, and more pictures. Oh, and I took lots of pictures.

Through the magic of my digital camera combined with amazing computer technology I was able to record all the wondrous goings on around me and later relive those moments in brilliant up-close color on my laptop screen. And believe me, every time I look at any of the in excess of 600 photos from the event I’m brought back to that moment and re-experience the whole gamut of emotions. And yes, I pinch myself yet again because I still can’t believe it really happened.

I’ve come away from this experience with a myriad of memories that will last a lifetime, but a few stand out in my mind. I had the honor of meeting two of my all-time favorite celebrities, Betty White and Ryan O’Neal. My usually exuberant little fruit loop Jingles was an absolute little lady with Betty. She sensed she was in the presence of a Hollywood icon and sat quietly, wagging her tail and staring adoringly at her. The sweetest thing?… Jingles placed her paw gently on Betty’s lap (I’m sure she was showing off her gold sparkly peticure!) and when Betty exclaimed, “Oh my darling sweetheart, you look glamorous!”, Jingles thanked her with a gentle yet purposeful Labradorable lick on the face. That’s my girl! When I met Ryan, I explained that I cannot see him… he took my hands and placed them on either side of his face and said, “Can you see me now?” I replied, “Oh Ryan, I’ve waited years to Braille you!” He laughed, patted his pockets and said, “Hey! Where’s my wallet?!” Love that man!

Meeting the other finalists (dogs and their people) was like a homecoming. Over the course of the contest we’d all been supporting and cheering each other on. By the time we met in Hollywood I felt like I’ve known them forever. Coming together, sharing laughter and our common bond with our awesome dogs will live on in my mind much like a holiday gathering…. too brief, too much time gone between visits and lots of fond memories gained!

I extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the AHA staff and all who were part of this once in a lifetime experience. From the moment I was contacted in early August of Jingles’ winning her category to the teary farewell at the hotel the morning after the gala, Jingles, Maizie, I and my guests were treated like royalty and then some. You provided an amazing forum to share my and my one-of-a-kind team’s extraordinary and unique story, and to show the amazing abilities and everlasting bond between working dogs and their handlers. Thank you surely doesn’t seem adequate… but thank you!

Good people, fine dogs, fond memories. What more could a gal hope for?



K9 Lakota’s 2013 Hero Dog Awards Experience

We were so honored to be award such a celebrity experience for K9 Lakota. It started early Friday morning as we walked through Atlanta airport to board our flight to LA. We were able share K9 Lakota’s story with multiple people and express just how important it is to get laws passed to protect our Law Enforcement K9s.

Once we arrived in LA we were whisked away by a chauffeur to the Beverly Hills Hilton where all our fellow Hero Dogs awaited everyone’s arrival. That evening we mingled upon the rooftop of the Beverly Hills Hilton Stardust Lounge.

What a beautiful site to overlook Beverly Hills with the Hollywood sign in the background. We got to meet some amazing supporters of the AHA that evening as well as our Law Enforcement supporter State Farm. Lakota received some amazing irreplaceable gift that evening to include a hand painted rock that is a resemblance of him along with Lakota’s Law painted on it and a beautiful handmade collar and leash designed especially for him.

Saturday morning was yet again another celebrity treatment day. Starting with an amazing breakfast and fellowship with our new friends. From there we did a dress rehearsal of the events to come later in the evening and boy did we feel like stars as we saw the red carpet being rolled out. We had hair and make up done by Paul Mitchell school while the dogs all rested for the big evening ahead. Then the time we had all awaited finally had come.

We all left our lavish hotel rooms dressed in our best and mingled with the stars, but we were humbled to see all 8 of our four legged heroes were the stars to the stars. We got to meet Betty White and Ryan O’neil and be interviewed by tv stations. We were introduced to our charity of choice and a lifetime friendship was begun. We are looking forward to helping this cause more and more as time goes on. Then came the red carpet walk K9 Lakota and Travis were escorted down the red carpet with Naomi Judd a small bit of mingling and then it was time to be seated for big event. We dined to a fantastic meal while being entertained by Las Vegas best and then Joey Lawrence started the show off.

Lakota was the first hero Dog up to receive his award and the tears flowed as his tribute video was played and as they walked on stage their was a standing ovation given to them both. The trophy he received will be forever cherished as well as the memories that were made that evening. The night went on and we watched all our new friends videos and receive their trophies and we laughed and cried right beside them.

As the night came to a close the overall Hero Dog was to be chosen all the tables held their leashes and their breathe and the winner was announced. Hero Dog Elle we were so excited and honored to se such an amazing dog break the stereotypes and win such a high award. Way to go ELLE we are so proud of you and your parents.

We left LA with not only wonderful memories but amazing new friends that we will now consider life long friends. thank you to all who voted for K9 Lakota and his fellow Dream Team friends. We are now back in Georgia and we are even more focused on changing laws and protecting law enforcement k9s.

~ Corey Fox aka K9 Lakota’s mom



Carlos’s 2013 Hero Dog Awards Experience

The Hero Dog Awards weekend had finally arrived. As Carlos and I walked into the lobby of the Beverly Hilton, I could feel the excitement in the air and I myself could hardly wait to meet the other amazing Hero Dogs and their parents. It was truly a weekend that will be treasured for a lifetime.

From a sunset toast to the Hero Dogs on the patio of the Stardust, to walking the Red Carpet with my “Hero” at my side, and meeting so many wonderful people, the Hero Dog Awards was truly an amazing experience.

Carlos - American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards 2013

The most memorable and emotional moment came with the resounding standing ovation Carlos received as I escorted him onto the stage to receive his Military Hero Award.  I cannot adequately describe my feelings as I stood beside my “warrior” that was being honored in such a very special way for his selfless service to our country.  That moment will be etched in my memory and in my heart forever.

Although the schedule was a whirlwind of activity, we were always reminded by the AHA staff that the welfare of the Hero Dogs came first.  I experienced their commitment to our dogs first hand.  A small cyst on Carlos’ face ruptured and within a short time, a Veterinarian arrived to take care of it.  I cannot thank the AHA staff enough for ensuring Carlos received professional care so quickly.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the team of dedicated staff that worked tirelessly to ensure each Hero Dog (and their human) was treated like royalty.  Thank you AHA with all of my heart for your dedication to honoring “ordinary dogs doing extraordinary things”.

Remember to tune in on Oct 30 8PM/7PM CT on Hallmark Channel

Remember to tune in on Oct 30 8PM/7PM CT on Hallmark Channel

Elle’s 2013 Hero Dog Awards Experience

Elle's 2013 Hero Dog Awards Experience
“Looking back on this lifetime experience full of fun, excitement, and adventure!” ~ Elle’s owner Leah

This was a first for my family- for Elle and I our first flight and for us all, it was our first trip out to California. Being greeted with a smile by a personal chauffeur at LAX that drove us to the Beverly Hilton Hotel was just the beginning of our celebrity treatment. Elle was immediately looking around with excitement as we turned in and saw the Hotel sign. Walking in to the lobby was an incredible sight from the sparkling chandeliers to the gigantic fish tank by the elevators. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming to our arrival and Elle made so many new friends I lost count. I don’t know who was more excited me or Elle to get the meet and greets underway! We first met John D at the elevators and afterwards the lobby was the popular place for the hero dogs meetings and greetings.

Friday night we were treated to a very special dinner on the roof top of the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the view was breathtaking. A perfect place for gathering everyone together for a toast to celebrate. We were presented with special gifts made just for our hero dogs- a personalized collar with engraved lock and a special painted portrait rock. Later on that night, we went to visit Carlos in the courtyard and Elle tried to charm him with some play pawing.

Elle on American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards 2013Going through rehearsal on Saturday morning created lots of butterflies, but really helped to prepare us for what to expect. I never felt more beautiful after having top professionals get me ready for the red carpet and center stage with my girl. I remember looking down during all the chaos of hair and makeup and seeing Elle and SD Bronx taking a nap together. It was a priceless, peaceful moment between the two furry friends.

Saturday afternoon was full of fun photo shoots, interviews, and meetings with the wonderful sponsors. Then we had the golden opportunity to meet a very special lady, Betty White! Elle met Betty White! Elle worked hard to learn a new bow trick just for this special meeting and walked right over to see her, took a bow, and gave her a signature high 5. Everything happened so fast and then before we knew it, go time to walk the red carpet. What an indescribable experience and Elle loved the cameras and all the attention.

The entire night was extremely exciting, but very emotional. The Hero Dog celebration was one of my most proudest moments. Elle is a gift to us all and I am truly thankful that the world now has a window into her beautiful heart. I want to thank the American Humane Association for allowing Elle, Eric, and I to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Much love to my hero dog family,

Remember to tune in on Oct 30th 8PM/7PM CT on Hallmark Channel

Remember to tune in on Oct 30th 8PM/7PM CT on Hallmark Channel