The Hero Dog Awards, Going to the Dogs Never Felt So Good

From l, Margie Barron, Sgt. Shuck, and Sgt. Huston with hero dog Gabe.

It was impossible not to be filled with joy at the Hero Dog Awards which honored the very best of our “best friends” — the four-legged ones who give us unconditional love and loyalty. The goosebump-filled event had lots of wonderful celebrities on hand but the real stars were Gabe, Jynx, Soot, Holly, Tatiana, Daniel, Tabitha, and Stella. They were the eight amazing dogs who took center stage because they are undeniably the most extraordinary heroes.

Fortunately everyone has a chance to get to know these canine champions when the Hallmark Channel airs The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, premiering Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. Helping to present the tail-wagging affair at the Beverly Hills Hotel last weekend was the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation. A special honoree was the incomparable 90-year-old Betty White, who loved the funny video tribute from her good friend Burt Reynolds. Truer words were never spoken when he said, “There’s nobody who doesn’t like Betty White. She’s just about perfect.”

With her frisky puppy personality, Kristin Chenoweth was the perfect hostess for the second annual awards. She’s a longtime animal advocate, as is Jewel, the musical star of the evening whose sweet voice had the audience and dogs howling for more. Joey Lawrence had a lot of that as the red carpet host, along with theLabradorguide dog Atticus, who was the red carpet grand marshal.

The greatest doggie treat for me was meeting Gabe, a military dog who represented the U.S. War Dog Association, and his owner-handler-best friend Sgt. First Class Charles Shuck. He told me that Gabe is a veteran of 200-plus combat missions inIraq, sniffing out weapons and explosive devises. And when he wasn’t helping to keep soldiers safe, Gabe was helping to comfort them, visiting wounded troops in Army hospitals. Gabe is now retired, but Sgt. Shuck said, “He still serves visiting schools and inspires children.”

Among the famous supporters, presenters, and awards judges were Naomi Judd, Pauley Perrette, Denise Richards, Michael Vartan, Bailee Madison, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Vanderpump, John Paul DeJoria, Megyn Price, A.J. Cook, Trevor Donovan, Victoria Stilwell, Edie McClurg, Kate Linder, and Candy Spelling. Happy to be part of the event was Kellie Martin, who was also excited to have her romantic comedy I Married Who? making its world premiere Oct. 20 on Hallmark. And Mark Steines, who hosts Home & Family, Hallmark’s new daytime lifestyle show, has already had some of the hero dogs as guests on the show.

Ken Howard, co-president of SAG-AFTRA, was also there and talked about the American Humane Association’s cooperation and how important their “No animals were harmed” end credit is to a production. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of AHA, is the dedicated force behind the Hero Dog Awards and said it was about time we threw the heroic hounds a bone and some recognition for their tales of courage, loyalty, and love. Ganzert gave special recognition to Lois Pope of the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation for her support of AHA’s lifesaving efforts. And Bill Abbott, president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, told me he is very proud that Hallmark can broadcast “a show that pays tribute to the many ways in which dogs enrich, protect, and save our lives every day.”

The American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, produced by Emmy-winning MRB Productions, had dogs nominated in eight categories: Law Enforcement & Arson Dogs; Service Dogs; Therapy Dogs; Military Dogs; Guide Dogs; Search and Rescue Dogs; Hearing Dogs; and Emerging Hero Dogs. Finalists in each category were selected by online voting and judged by a panel of celebrities and animal experts. One extraordinary judge was Michael Hingson, the bestselling author and blind 9/11 survivor whose guide dogRoselle led him and others out of theWorldTradeCenter.Roselle was the Hero Dog winner last year. Tune in and enjoy this year’s top dog.

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