Hey Dogsters! Yes, I know, I’m not supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be writing my book, Soldier Dogs, while on my leave of absence from Dogster. But partly because of that book, I took some time last weekend to fly to Los Angeles to attend the inaugural event for the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards. First, these hero dogs are all incredible creatures â€” devoted, mellow, hard-working, truly amazing. I wanted to meet them.
And it was work-related, because among the heroes was Bino, a 13-year-old former military working dog who was up for the award for top hero dog. His adoptive owner, Debbie Kandoll, and I had missed each other while I was in Texas for book research, but since she was coming to my state with him, and since I’d been invited to attend by the nice folks at Cesar canine cuisine, I decided to leave my writing cottage in San Francisco for some time out of my cave.
Wow, was it worth it. It was a splendid gala event, star-studded, and, more importantly, hero-dog-studded. These dogs were true luminaries, gracious with the throngs who gathered at the Beverly Hills Hilton for this red-carpet event. They impressed the crowds with their poise and calm. Nearly every hero dog sat or lay down shortly after arriving on the stage during the awards portion. Jake would have run amok and jumped off the stage to whatever table of filet of beef tenderloin was nearest. (Maybe this is why no one nominated him?)
Throughout the night, the award ceremony featured video tributes of each of the eight finalists. When I looked around the audience after the films, there were many cloth napkins dabbing away tears. Each finalist received a $5,000 donation to his or her designated AHA Charity Partner, as well as a very cool trophy â€” a sculpture created by Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter, Liza Todd Burton.
At the end of the night, the winner was Roselle, a yellow Lab guide dog who led her blind handler, Michael Hingson, down 78 flights of stairs in World Trade Center’s Tower One on 9/11. Sadly, Roselle died on June 26, while the contest was in full swing, but she received the award posthumously â€” a most deserving dog if ever there was one. Hingson brought his new guide dog, Africa, in her place. You can read about Roselle in Hingson’s bestselling book, Thunder Dog.
The Hero Dog Awards will premiere on the Hallmark Channel on November 11. The 90-minute special will air at 8 p.m. ET. If you’re a Dogster, you’ll love it. (I hope they show the behind-the-scenes look at Mickey Rooney’s voiceover of the Rin Tin Tin video. It’s hilarious.)
Here are some exclusive photos from the event. Enjoy! And see you next month when I’m done writing about canine heroes of the military persuasion. 🙂