Every year, the AKC Humane Fund chooses five dogs to reward for their hard work and dedication to improving the lives of people in their community. The owner(s) or someone who has been impacted by the dog’s work nominate the dog for the award. There are five categories for which a dog can be nominated: Uniformed Service K-9, Therapy, Service, Search and Rescue, and Exemplary Companion dog.
Winners of the ACE awards receive a year long pet insurance policy from AKC Pet Insurance and $1000 to award to a pet-related charity of their choice. The honorees of 2017 enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to the AKC National Championship in Orlando, FL on December 16-17, 2017. Recipients of the awards were presented with an engraved sterling silver medal during the event.
2017 Ace Award Recipients
Uniformed Service K-9: Dogs in this category must be full-time working K-9s in law enforcement, the military, firefighting, customs and border patrol, or emergency services. This year, “Duke”, a two-year-old Doberman Pinscher serving San Mateo County, California received the award. Duke has been working in the Menlo Park Police Special Investigation unit handling narcotics cases and has discovered tens of thousands of dollars in illegal narcotics and firearms.
Therapy Dog: Dogs in this category must be certified to comfort individuals in the community. An 11-year-old Skye Terrier, “Dennis” won the award after seven years of extensive therapy work. Dennis spent most of his life participating in a Therapy Dog International reading program “Tail Waggin Tutors” where he helped children discover a love of reading. Sadly, Dennis passed away earlier this year, but his daughter “Evie” is currently training to become certified and plans to carry on his work.
Service Dog: To be eligible in this category, dogs must be certified to act as an assistance animal to improve the lives of physically or mentally disabled owners. A Great Pyrenees “Gunner” claimed the award after logging countless hours serving his owner, a medically retired US Army veteran. Gunner was paired with D. Hamilton Kinard after Kinard was disabled with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and total body nerve damage. Gunner not only acts as physical support, but inspires Hamilton with encouraging kisses and an infectiously positive personality.
Search and Rescue Dog: Dogs who are certified to assist in natural disasters, mass casualty events, and locating missing people, are qualified for nomination as search and rescue dogs. “Piglet”, a six-year-old Catahoula Leopard Dog, is an unstoppable force in her search and rescue team. Piglet and handler Lori Wells have assisted law enforcement in locating remains in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
Exemplary Companion Dog: This category is for dogs who are not certified, but have shown their compassion and desire to improve the lives of everyone they meet. Sonja Benavidez has had a difficult life battling Encephalitis. She overcame those difficulties and continued showing her Cardigan Welsh Corgis, until 2013 when several foot injuries bound her to a wheelchair. After receiving “Amber” as a young pup, Sonja realized that showing dogs didn’t have to end. Amber has gone on to become a Grand Champion, as well as to obtain various other prestigious titles. Amber and Sonja inspire other disabled dog handlers to get in the ring and have a great time!
For more information about the AKC Humane Fund ACE awards, visit www.akchumanefund.org/ace-awards/ .