Going to the Dogs Hollywood Style

Billy Monahan with his rescue dog Hunter, Loretta Swit, and JoAnne Worley.

Billy Monahan with his rescue dog Hunter, Loretta Swit, and JoAnne Worley.

The winner wagged her tail when the top dog was announced at the “Third Annual Hero Dog Awards.” The American Humane Association event was taped for a TV special on the family and dog friendly Hallmark Channel, airing Oct. 30, as part of the network’s Pet Project. “We hope you will tune to watch the stories of these amazing canines. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You don’t want to miss it,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association.

It’s true, there were laughs, but by the end of the awards there wasn’t a dry eye in the Beverly Hilton ballroom, as the star-studded audience got to know the amazing dogs that trotted across the stage and their incredible achievements. Spoiler alert: a special pit bull was named “top dog,” and I fell in love with her. Elle is a therapy dog who helps teach children about dog safety, reading, and overcoming prejudice. Elle breaks the pit bull stereotype, having been raised with love and affection, returning it tenfold thanks to her human companion Leah Brewer.

Elle spreads happiness with the “Tail Wagging Tales” therapy dog reading program, helping kids enjoy books and improve their reading skills. I was humbled when I met this sweet caramel colored canine, and shook her paw. Elle had amazing competition in eight categories: Law Enforcement/Arson Dogs, Service Dogs, Guide Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Military Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Emerging Hero Dogs, and all were true winners.

The Hero Dog Awards were presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and produced by MRB Productions. Joey Lawrence was host of the show, great as always, as were the celebrity presenters Betty White, Pauley Perrette, Naomi Judd, Lori Loughlin, Daphne Zuniga, Esai Morales, Bailee Madison, Danielle Fishell, Ryan O’Neal, and many more. The ultra-fabulous Las Vegas entertainer Frankie Moreno performed giving the evening an exciting vibe that had the audience howling — the people, not the dogs!

Howling with laughter was everyone who attended the Actors & Others for Animals’ luncheon which had the theme “Best in Show” with a pet competition. The high-energy A&O’s president JoAnne Worley said she didn’t enter her beloved dog Harmony in the competition, “because she would surely win, and it would look like the contest was fixed.”

Even without Harmony the contest was a highlight, with celebrities showing videos of their cats and dogs while Fred Willard and Jim Piddock comically critiqued the presentation ala their roles in the unforgettable Best in Show film. Mike Burger emceed, and guests Tippi Hedren, Susan Sullivan, Ed Begley, Jr., Leonard Maltin, Chuck McCann, Allie MacKay, Jay Johnson, and Ruta Lee shared moments with their lovable pets. Winning the “Best in Show” title was Bernie Shine’s video of his dog flossing his teeth. Absolutely true and funny!

More serious was Loretta Swit’s presentation to the Search Dog Foundation, with the awesome search dog Hunter on hand to accept the Betty White Inspiration Award. The 2013 Award of Caring was awarded to Kathleen Riordan and Bonnie Garner for their work in protecting and caring for companion animals. Also attending were Mary Willard (event chair), Charlotte Rae, Jackie Joseph, and A&O’s president emeritus Earl Holliman.

Another highlight of the event was a performance by “The Plaids,” a great foursome singing harmonies that wowed the crowd with music from the “Forever Plaid” repertoire. One of the ultra-talented fellows Scott Dreier said, “All of The Plaids are animal lovers, and we’re proud to support Actors & Others and what they do to help our sweet four legged friends.” Bless them.

In other doggie news, the acclaimed NBC drama Chicago Fire wanted to honor firehouse dogs and had fire stations across America submit essays about their special dogs and why they deserved to be recognized. The winner is Smokey, a Labrador mix from Illinois who had been rescued from a burning building. Now Smokey helps firefighters teach kids to “stop, drop, and roll,” and will have a cameo appearance on an episode of Chicago Fire. Oh you lucky dog!

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