Hero Dogs

More than 400 dogs were entered. Over half a million votes from animal lovers have been cast. And 21 remarkable dogs made it to the semifinal round of this year’s American Humane Hero Dog Awards.

It’s an opportunity for these often unsung canine heroes to shine. The Hero Dog Awards “bring attention to the life-changing, life-saving power of the human-animal bond,” says Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane president and CEO.

The winning dog in each category—therapy, guide dog, and more—will take part in the nationally televised Hero Dog Awards broadcast as a two-hour special on Hallmark Channel this fall. In the meantime, meet some of the remarkable semi-finalists…

Meet 4 Remarkable Hero Dog Awards Semifinalists:

Photo: Greg Murray Photo

Boone + Tanya Diable, Butler, Pennsylvania // Therapy Dog

Beagle-mix Boone survived heartbreaking cruelty as a puppy, resulting in the loss of his back legs. His life changed when he was adopted by The Diables, a family with a soft spot for special-needs pets. They had Boone fitted with a wheelchair to improve his mobility, and he’s been a dog on a mission ever since, spreading joy to others with his infectious smile and story of resilience. Boone’s sweet nature and enthusiasm for life make him a perfect fit for his new role as a therapy dog.

“They say that when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, and that is the truth for Boone,” says Tanya Diable. “Children light up when he enters the room.”

Boone is also an ambassador for the nonprofit Joey’s P.A.W. (Prosthetics and Wheels). So far, the charity has provided mobility devices to over 700 dogs in need. The goal is to improve the outcome for dogs with mobility issues in shelters and rescues across the country, as well as perceptions about their adoptability.

“Boone inspires those around him every day to overcome the obstacles that life throws at them,” says Diable. “When he is not spreading joy as a therapy dog, he is working to make life better for dogs with mobility issues in shelters. Just look at his smile. He is going to change the world!”


Maverick + Kelly Brownfield, St. Robert, MO // Therapy Dog

From puppyhood, Maverick, a Great Dane, was groomed to become a therapy dog for the USO of Missouri. From the day he started working in this role, Maverick’s mission has been to help service members and their families.

“His true passion—when you see him light up the most—is when he works with the children of our military service members,” says his owner, Kelly Brownfield. “Maverick is their rock as he escorts children to the burial site of their fallen family member, stands on the podium with children as they testify in court, acts as an attentive pair of ears for children as they practice their reading skills, and provides stability support to wounded warriors as they learn to walk again.”

Indeed, at nearly 200 pounds, Maverick’s size allows other to literally lean on him when his support is needed the most.

“Maverick’s natural ability to show love and support to all he encounters makes him a hero in the hearts of many, touching the lives of thousands across the nation with his work,” says Brownfield.


SSG Summer + Micah Jones, Mt. Airy, MD // Military Dog

“My retired partner’s name is Staff Sergeant Summer,” says Sergeant Michah Jones, a Patrol/K9 Supervisor with the Amtrak Police Department. “She’s a ten-year-old Labrador.”

In her ten years, Summer has made incredible contributions. She served as a Military Working Dog and war dog in the Marine Corps, then served as a Police Explosive Detection Dog for seven years. While deployed, Summer searched for and positively identified countless weapons caches and improvised explosive devices, swept and cleared routes for the troops, and was involved in numerous fire fights with insurgents. Summer put her life on the line to protect, defend, and save the lives of countless troops. As a result of exposure to war-zone environments and other traumatic events experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan, Summer was diagnosed with canine PTSD in December 2015. "She copes with this condition daily but hasn’t let it stop her," says Sergeant Jones. Though now retired, Summer continues to give by visiting her fellow veterans at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, in St. Mary’s County, MD, where love and pats cheers other former military members.


Photo John Vecchiolla for Guiding Eyes for the Blind

Henna + Meagan Gorsuch, Albuquerque, NM // Guide/Hearing Dog

Last year, while simply crossing a familiar intersection, Meagan Gorsuch, who is deaf and legally blind, was nearly crushed by the trailer of an 18-wheeler. She was waiting with Henna, her guide dog, to cross the road. After a few moments, Henna’s ear flick indicated it was their turn. Gorsuch gave the forward command and they started crossing towards the opposite corner. They had reached the midway point when Henna suddenly backed up.

“She reversed so fast I knew instantly something was wrong,” says Gorsuch. “When Henna slowed enough for me to take in my surroundings, I could see a large truck was now completing a left turn in front of us.  No more than five feet away, the trailer wheels rumbled where Henna and I were only moments ago.”

After the trailer passed, Henna guided Gorsuch safely across to the opposite curb without prompting. “To this day, I can still see the trailer’s reflective strips in front of me and know that this was only one of many times she saved my life, while allowing me freedom,” says Gorsuch. “She continues to confidently guide me and acts as if it had never happened. I can almost see in her face and hear in her voice, ‘I got you, mom! Just follow me.’”

*Tune in to Hallmark Drama on October 20 at 9 pm ET/PT to meet the seven finalists.

“Every single contender exemplifies courage and heroism,” says philanthropist and award sponsor Lois Pope. “Our goal is…to inspire America to reflect on the outsized contributions that animals make in our lives each and every day.”

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