Hero Dog Awards showcase power of the human-animal connection

Actress Bindi Irwin and professional dancer Derek Hough present the 2015 Military Dog of the Year award to Sgt. Rambo.

Actress Bindi Irwin, and professional dancer Derek Hough, present the Military Dog of the Year award to Sgt. Rambo at the 2015 Hero Dog Awards.

By Bindi Irwin

This past September, I was invited to participate in a truly beautiful event in Beverly Hills to showcase the powerful connection of animals in our lives – the Hero Dog Awards, hosted by the American Humane Association. I cannot begin to tell you how inspiring the evening was and how many wonderful people were there to celebrate the bond between animals and humans. Continue reading

New White Paper Details Important Role Working Dogs Have in Shaping Humane Communities

Humankind has always had a special relationship with dogs. For thousands of years, they have comforted us, protected us, and given us their unconditional love. Time and time again through the ages they have proven why they are considered our best friends. Yet, not only do dogs serve as our beloved companions, they are also a vital part of keeping our communities healthy, safe and humane. Continue reading

America’s Most Courageous Canines “Speak” to Congress

The 2015 Hero Dog Finalists

The 2015 Hero Dog Finalists

Yesterday, the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards winners went to Capitol Hill to “speak” to Congress, the American public, and the international media about the important role that dogs play in our lives.

The eight hero dogs and their human companions were the heart and soul of a standing-room-only event, “Hero Dogs on the Hill: A Celebration of Working Dogs in Our Lives,” which was hosted by the new Humane Bond Caucus, co-chaired by Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL) and Henry Cuellar, Ph.D. (TX). One by one, their unique “tails” came to life, demonstrating the life-affirming and life-saving power of the connection between people and animals. The audience heard the stories of: Continue reading

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?