Everybody loves a hero!  Especially the canine ones.

Here is your chance to watch a gala event honoring these heroes.  This Friday, November 11, the Hallmark Channel will air the debut of the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards at 8pm.  This special broadcast features eight extraordinary dogs in eight categories voted upon by the public from more than 500 entries throughout the nation.

The Hero Dog Awards recognize the powerful relationship between dogs and people and celebrate the many benefits of animals and people sharing their lives together.  The Hero Dog Awards recognize the contributions to society of many dogs – therapy dogs, military dogs, search and rescue dogs, etc.

Dogs were nominated in eight categories: Law Enforcement and Arson Dogs; Service Dogs; Therapy Dogs; Military Dogs; Guide Dogs; Search and Rescue Dogs; Hearing Dogs; and Emerging Hero Dogs.

Nominations were made earlier this year and on June 1, 2011, voting was open to the public.  All the finalists were flown to Hollywood, where they walked the red carpet into a  black-tie awards show on October 1, 2011 where the winning American Hero Dog was announced.

One dog was picked from each category, and among those, a top winner was picked.   The Top Hero Dog for 2011 is…

Guide Dog Roselle.  The dog who guided her blind owner down 78 flights of stairs at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11,  2001. This honor was bestowed posthumously for Roselle died on June 26 of this year.  Roselle was chosen as Top Dog by a panel of judges that included Betty White, Whoopi Goldberg, Victoria Stilwell, and Mark Hamill.  In addition, a $10,000 donation was made to Guide Dogs to the Blind in Roselle’s honor.

On September 11, 2001 Michael Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle, worked in the World Trade Center on the 78th floor of Tower One.  They were both in the office when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the other side of the building 18 floors above them.   Roselle did not panic, she remained focused on guiding Hingson down 78 floors to the ground.   She was also a calming presence for others trying to descend to safety.  Once on the ground, Roselle remained calm in the middle of panic and falling debris from the towers.  Through the smoke and dust, Roselle guided Hingson to a subway entrance and even waited for the command to descend the stairs.  Roselle did everything expected of her under terrifying circumstances.  She saved Michael Hingson’s life.  Roselle’s heroic actions are recounted in a book, “Thunder Dog, The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero.”

There were seven other finalists.

K-9 Sage

Arson Dog Winner Sadie. The certified accelerant detection K-9 who works with the Major Crimes Unit of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation since May 2007.  She is hard working hero that worked approximately 400 fires, assisted in high profile arson and homicide cases, and worked in extreme environments of collapsing buildings and snow covered mountains.  And never missed a day.

Service Dog Winner Zurich.  The certified service dog who has enriched the life of his ailing partner.   Zurich treats it as “all in the day of a dog’s life”.

Animal Assistance Therapy Dog Winner Stacey Mae.  The therapy dog who has helped collect thousands of teddy bears from around the world for sick children in hospitals.

Military Working Dog Bino.  Served as a Narcotics Detection/Patrol K-9 for almost 11 years.  Bino has been deployed to Iraq for 14 months as well as serving special missions with the Border Patrol in the war on drugs.  Upon retirement, Bino became the Official Mascot of Military Working Dog Adoptions.

Search and Rescue Winner K-9 Sage.  The search and rescue dog who has served at the Pentagon in the recovery efforts immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Other missions have included searching for missing teenager Natalee Holloway, and in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  In 2007-2008 Sage was deployed to Iraq to search for missing U.S. soldiers.

Hearing Dog Winner Harley.  The hearing dog who has given his owner self-confidence and a feeling of equality with others that she had never before experienced.

Surf Dog Ricochet

Emerging Hero Dog Winner Ricochet.  The dog who surfs with special-needs kids and people with disabilities for therapeutic purposes. If you’re a facebook user and a member of Surf Dog Ricochet’s facebook page,you know these words well:  “Tell ‘em Surf Dog Ricochet sent ya”.

Visit the Hero Dog Awards website for pictures and information about each winner.

In addition to all these hero dogs, another award was given.  Rin Tin Tin was named National Ambassador for American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards.

Rin Tin Tin

Everyone knows Rin Tin Tin.  He was rescued as a pup from a battlefield in 1918 France during World War I.  He was brought tothe United States after the war and enjoyed a fabulous career in movies and television.  His son, Rin Tin Tin III, served as the model to help create the US Military Working Dog training program at Camp Hahn in California during 1939.  The legacy continues today as the current Rin Tin Tin serves as a member of an elite search dog recovery unit in Little Rock, Arkansas.

And there you have it.  These dogs represent all the good things that happen between people and dogs.  They’re all heroes whether they rescue, work, protect, play, perform a service, or just walk leisurely alongside us.  Dogs can change lives, they can save lives, and they can touch our hearts forever.

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