High Point, North Carolina
In 2008, I was mauled by an abused dog. Because of the attack, I suffered a miscarriage and will never be able to have children.
In 2009, a pit-bull-mix puppy licked the face of her owner’s child. For her “crime,” her owner beat her so severely that he knocked teeth out and broke her jaw. Her body was set on fire.
This dog and I don’t sound like the perfect partnership to change animal-cruelty laws, do we? But caretakers treated the mutilated puppy with her ears burned off and 60 percent of her body covered in third-degree burns infested with maggots, and I ended up adopting the pup known as Susie. Her constant love, sweet spirit, and boundless forgiveness healed my depression. As we became best friends, I knew Susie could be an amazing spokesdog for animal welfare.
Susie’s triumph over pain and fear led us to fight for stronger anti-cruelty laws in North Carolina. In 2010, we proudly stood by as Governor Bev Perdue signed Susie’s Law into effect with Susie’s pawprint beside the governor’s signature.
But teaching never ends. Susie, a certified therapy dog, goes to schools, hospitals, and churches as we bring messages of kindness, respect, and responsibility to children and adults. Susie greets everyone with a wag and a smile, never thinking about inspiring three children’s books and a movie, but living in the moment to give kisses and cuddles to those who need to know that forgiveness and grace are the greatest gifts.
Chaney is an eight-year-old lab who retired from the Marines in 2013 after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an IED detection dog. While deployed, Chaney not only saved countless lives by locating IEDs out in front he also served as a great morale booster for everyone in his squad. Since retiring, Sgt.
Chaney was adopted by one of his handlers: me, Cpl. Hatala. Chaney and I now spend many hours volunteering around the Midwest for a nonprofit organization, Retrieving Freedom, Inc. (RFI). RFI trains service dogs for disabled veterans and children with autism. Chaney now spends his time educating others about what a service dog can do and does for veterans, including scent detection demonstrations for children. Currently, more service members are committing suicide from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) than are being killed in action-approximately 22 each day. Service dogs can help prevent this from happening.??
After retiring as a military working dog, instead of being on the front line Chaney has continued to save lives through education about PTSD and the ways service dogs can benefit those suffering from PTSD. Chaney is competing for the Military Working Dogs Adoption Program because we believe reuniting even one handler with their dog makes our work worthwhile. Chaney has had an impact on my life and further, an impact on countless others he has touched. I hope these impacts would be replicated in the lives of the handlers who receive their dogs from the money donated if Chaney wins.
Apex, North Carolina
From shelter to saving a little girls life; everyday…even in the operating room! Yep..that’s me. My name is JJ. I was dropped off at a shelter when I was a few weeks old. Rescued by Eyes Ears Nose & Paws who trained me. I hit the lottery because I was paired with KK, a little 5 year old girl with a rare disorder called Mastocytosis. KK can have reactions from things such as being tired, hot, cold, exercise just about anything can trigger those darn mast cells. These reactions can sometimes be mild and sometimes life threatening. Talk about scary. What makes it worse, there is NO monitor to help her parents detect when she is about to have a reaction. That’s where I come in. I have a pretty good nose. In fact, I can smell these reactions and I tell her parents when she starts to have a reaction.
?I’m really good at my job. In fact, KK needed surgery in December and her doctors want ME in the OR with them to help monitor her! Now I don’t have a medical degree (or even a pedigree) but I was happy to help! See it’s just another days work for me. They tell me that because I’m KK’s monitor, she can live a more normal life. She can attend school and participate in other activities she would have never been able to do before me. Both most of all, we just love each other… a whole lot!
Law Enforcement and First Responder
San Antonio, Texas
K-9 Kai is a shelter rescue success story. Kai is a six year old female black Labrador retriever, an Accelerant Detection Canine with the San Antonio Fire Department and my partner of four years. Kai’s story began when she was picked up off the streets by animal control and forfeited by her original owners. Fate would send a representative from the Humane Society of Central Illinois to this facility.
During playtime Kai was observed finding the only tennis ball in a large toy box. Her drive was obvious and with one phone call, her career in Fire Investigation began. The phone call was to a trainer associated with the State Farm Arson Dog Program. He evaluated Kai and immediately began her training. The never-ending energy, drive and tenacious quality of Kai make her an awesome working dog. Upon closer examination, Kai is loving, loyal, social and obedient.
The attached photo of Kai is at her “office”, any fire scene. An environment of heat, smoke, bright lights and sirens which would send most dogs running away only makes this K-9 smile with anticipation. With a single command of “seek”, K-9 Kai begins her investigation (sniff) of the fire scene. Why should Kai be named an American Hero Dog? The Humane Society recognized her potential and saved her from certain death. She has eagerly worked over two hundred investigations. She educates children in fire prevention and safety during school demonstrations and she enjoys her downtime with her family and tennis ball.
Service and Guide/Hearing
“Because of Xxon, I’m part of society again. He’s my hero every day, and I can’t imagine life without him.”?Fidelco Guide Dog “Xxon” is more than a guide to retired Air Force SSgt Michael Malarsie. He’s his new wingman in life.
?On January 3, 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Malarsie was blinded and severely wounded by a powerful improvised explosive device that killed four team members, including his best friend Brad. Michael and Brad had trained and deployed together as a two-man team assigned to support a 13-man Army platoon. ?Exactly one year later, Michael met his new partner – Xxon. With Xxon leading the way, Michael returned to work as the only blind Airman serving active duty in the Air Force. He received the Bronze Star with Valor for heroism on the battlefield.
And today, he’s earned a new rank in life: husband and father. ?”When I learned of those men who were never coming home, it changed my life. I decided I wasn’t going to let being blind hold me back. I’m going to live my life, if not for me, then for them,” says Michael. “Xxon is a huge piece of that.”?Xxon is a game-changer for the entire Malarsie family. He provides increased freedom and independence not only for Michael, but for his wife, Jesse. “When Xxon is working with Michael, I don’t feel that I have to watch out for him every minute,” says Jesse, “I can focus on being a mom to our three children.”
Over her long career, Bretagne has made a significant contribution to the Search & Rescue community not only through her many deployments including 9/11 World Trade Center – 2001, Olympic Winter Games – 2001, and Hurricane Rita – 2005, but through her talents as an ambassador of Search and Rescue Dogs.
A teammate wrote this of Bretagne, “If you ask anybody whoever knew or trained with Bretagne, they would tell you ‘Oh she just loves me!’. That’s the kind of dog she is, affectionate to everybody, and fiercely devoted, never takes her eyes off her handler. She has always taken her job as a search dog seriously, but herself not so much. Always ready for a belly rub, or a treat. In remembering her first deployment at the World Trade Center, there are images of her going to where she was directed to search, the unknown, the chaotic environment.
But even then, she knew who needed the comfort of a dog, which firefighter needed to hold her close and stroke her fur”. Although Bretagne retired in 2008 from active Search & Rescue, her work is not done. She continues as an ambassador for Search & Rescue dogs as she visits elementary schools where she helps 1st graders learn to read. As she prances into the school, her tail wagging, her fur highlighted with silver, she is always finding joy in work, and not letting her age define her. Bretagne is a Hero Dog.
On January 3, 2014, Kota responded to a burglary in progress call to assist officers in searching a house. K9 Kota located a suspect hiding in the upstairs crawl space and was in the process of detaining the susepct when the ceiling gave way and Kota fell approximately 8 feet to the hardwood floor below. Officers could hear Kota yelping loudly and incessantly for approximately one minute but his handler could not immediately check on him because officers were still engaged with the suspects.
Another officer took control of the suspect Kota’s handler had so she could go check on Kota but when officers turned around, they saw Kota already standing right behind them. Officers were amazed to see Kota had crawled back up the stairs considering the severity of his cries and were moved by his devotion and loyalty to his handler and the other officers as well as his desire to stay in the fight.?
Kota was taken to the emergency Vet where it was discovered he had a humeral Y fracture (basically he split his elbow in half and the fracture continued up the humerus) and an additional fracture further up the bone. Kota underwent a 4 hour surgery and is currently attending physical therapy in hopes of returning to full duty. (The picture was taken several hours after his surgery). The surgeon said returning to narcotics work is a realistic goal but is not optimistic about Kota’s return to full patrol capacity
Emerging Hero and Shelter
Xena the Warrior Puppy
Johns Creek ,Georgia
Life began horribly for our dog now widely known and adored as Xena the Warrior Puppy. In September 2012, Xena, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was close to death when she was brought to the DeKalb County Animal Services’ shelter in Georgia. Her nose was scabbed over, she was emaciated, dehydrated and given just 1% chance of survival. The veterinarian determined she was about 4 months old and had been confined – and starved – in a cage before being dumped in someone’s yard. A shelter employee and founder of Friends of Dekalb Animals, Chrissy Kaczynski, took her home and began loving her back to life, and the dog rebounded quickly, living up to her name. The Hickey’s of Johns Creek, Ga., adopted Xena the Warrior Puppy in March 2013 – and this is when Xena proved to be a hero for an 8-year-old boy who needed her. Autism had left Jonny closed off and isolated. He could speak, but spent most of his time in silence. After Xena bounded into his life, he began talking and singing to her non-stop. Now a happy chatterbox at home, Jonny thrives in Xena’s company. Jonny’s thrilling his parents and teachers with the progress he’s making in school. Xena’s story has been shared in more than 105 countries around the world. Together they are “Spreading the Words” – raising awareness about animal cruelty, the kindness and gentleness of pit bulls, autism, and that shelter animals make great best friends.