2013 ACE Honorees


The AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) commemorate five loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions to their communities. The awards are presented in each of the following five categories: Exemplary Companion Dog, Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Service and Therapy. This year's winners include a Newtown therapy dog and an active amputee that helps wounded warriors overcome their own injuries.

All the ACE recipients will receive $1,000 to be awarded to a pet-related charity of their choice and an engraved sterling silver medallion presented at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Florida on December 14, 2013.

Exemplary Companion

Bart: Vizsla owned by Darcy Hodges of Brooks, Georgia

Bart was only three years old -- a strong, young dog from a well-planned breeding that had already completed his AKC conformation championship -- when he developed a limp during hunt and field season.

The veterinarian found a lump on the top of his left shoulder and the x-rays revealed 80% of the scapula eaten away by cancer. Bart had his entire front left leg removed.

But, Bart was a true working dog. In October 2008, only four months after his amputation and three weeks after completing chemotherapy, Bart earned his Senior Hunter title and continued to the Master Hunter level. There were times during their hunt tests when judges would look sympathetically at the poor girl and her three-legged dog, but sympathy soon changed to awe as many were moved, often to tears, by Bart's courage and determination. Bart earned his Master Hunter title ten months after his amputation and became the first Vizsla in history to have completed the title with three legs.

In the summer of 2010, Darcy and Bart were invited to visit with the Wounded Warriors in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. Later that fall, the Wounded Warriors came to Atlanta and watched Bart compete in a field trial. Most recently, nearing his eighth birthday, Bart ran fast and hard during a guided hunt with the Wounded Warriors, inspiring soldiers that had returned home without all of their limbs but were overcoming their battle scars.

Honorable Mention

  • Gabe: Bulldog owned by Cheryl Knapp of Bellingham, WA
  • Gizzi: Cardigan Welsh Corgi handled by Janet Boberg of Phoenix, AZ
  • Perry: Shetland Sheepdog handled by Barbara and Gordon Millman of San Pedro, CA
  • Sam: Cardigan Welsh Corgi owned by Jan Bilgen & Teresa Kannaro of Whitewater, WI
  • Xena: All American handled by Linda Hickeyof Johns Creek, GA

Law Enforcement

K-9 Zeke: Belgian Malinois owned by Harrisburg Police Department, Harrisburg, PA and Cpl. Tyron E. Meik of New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania

On March 15, 2013, Harrisburg Police K-9 Corporal Tyron Meik and "K-9 Zeke," a two- year-old Belgian Malinois, received a call to assist a nearby police department. An armed suspect had allegedly stabbed and shot at an individual, then turned the gun on police before fleeing into an area close to an elementary school and busy suburban shopping area.

Upon arriving at the scene, Zeke tracked the suspect to within 15 yards of his hiding spot. Zeke was shot in the neck by the suspect upon discovery as he attempted to protect the officers. Even with a bullet lodged inside of him, Zeke held the suspect until there was no longer a threat to police.

Bleeding from his gunshot wound and going into shock, Zeke was air lifted by a trauma helicopter to an emergency veterinary hospital, where he underwent a two-hour surgery.

Zeke has since made a full recovery and was cleared to return to active duty on April 30, 2013. In the prior fifteen months of his career, Zeke had also assisted in the recovery of over $126,000 in currency, 897 grams of crack cocaine, 2,018 grams of cocaine, 5,135 grams of marijuana, 301 grams of heroin, seven firearms and had 45 arrests.

Zeke, who was donated by The Harrisburg Kennel Club, became a true hero to the police and the community when, with a gunshot to the neck, he continued to do what we believe all good cops and great dogs will do -- "Serve and protect."

Honorable Mention

  • Bodie: German Shepherd owned by Officer Randy Van Dusen of Roseville, CA
  • Dexter: All American owned by Travis Snuffer of Maidsville, WV
  • Dina: Belgian Malinois owned by Janet Mertz of San Antonio, TX
  • Jynx: German Shepherd owned by Kyle Pagerly of Reading, PA
  • Siebert: Labrador Retriever owned by USMC Veteran Linsay Wykoff of Hanover, MI

Search and Rescue

Jesse: German Shepherd Dog owned by Susan Condreras of Riverhead, New York

Jesse is a dual-certified National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) search dog for both live area search and human remains detection, as well as a Therapy Dog International Remarkable Volunteer Achievement (TDIRVA) dog, with over 250 therapy dog visits to patients in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors' offices.

Jesse and owner Sue respond all over the east coast and are always willing to travel to help families in need when a loved one goes missing. For the past five years, Jesse has served her community and surrounding communities by deploying on multiple searches in arduous terrain. Snakes, ticks, steep cliffs, swamps, extreme weather conditions, fox, bears, and gunshots have all threatened her safety while she has diligently searched for missing people.

During a recent training session on treacherous terrain, Jesse came out of the woods limping badly and yelping with every step she took. She was diagnosed with two herniated discs in her spine, but Jesse was determined to keep going. After a long and difficult rehab, consisting of a six month period of acupuncture, physical therapy, and acupressure, Jesse was back to work looking for the missing. On her first search back, she found a hunter alive in the swamps of New Jersey.

You'd never know from watching her that she was ever incapacitated, and today her work continues. Many people's lives are changed forever when a loved one goes missing, and it is the work of dogs like Jesse that help to bring closure and peace to those affected.

Honorable Mention

  • Roscoe: Bloodhound owned by Mike Grossman of Moorpark, CA
  • Biene: German Shepherd owned by Brandy Salazar of Chesapeake, VA
  • Dino: All American owned by Jackie Phillips of San Leandro, CA
  • Molly Mae: Labrador Retriever owned by Lee Root of Carrollten, KY
  • Uffda: Bloodhound owned by Paul Dixon of Louisville, KY

Service Dog

Tuesday: Golden Retriever owned by Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan of New York, New York

Tuesday came into Luis' life at its darkest hour. After honorably departing the Army in 2007, an institution in which he had served his entire adult life, Luis' mind, body and spirit were broken.

Enter Tuesday. Luis and Golden Retriever Tuesday were partnered through the Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) facility in New York after Luis returned from two tours in Iraq with a spinal cord injury (SCI), a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Tuesday brightens his days and calms his nights. From retrieving things he needs so that Luis doesn't have to strain his spinal cord injury to gentle nuzzles that return Luis from horrible flashbacks caused by his TBI and PTSD, Tuesday has given Luis back his life.

Tuesday has been a furry ambassador to many. In 2009, he inspired Senator Al Franken to co-sponsor the Service Dogs for Veterans Act (SDVA), which is leading to scientific evidence proving the efficacy of assistance dogs to mitigate many disabilities, including psychological ones. In 2010, his service canine abilities were featured in the National Geographic documentary film, "And Man Created Dog," which aired in 100 countries around the world. That same year, he was awarded an Honorary Master's of Science in Journalism from Columbia University for helping Luis to earn his own.

In 2011, Tuesday's happy face covered the duo's inspirational memoir, Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrier and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, instantly making the New York Times' Bestseller List. Months later, Tuesday's dedication to helping educate others about trauma and recovery was honored by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services with a Voice Award at Paramount Studios.

Tuesday has visited animal rescues, libraries, schools, military installations, and universities from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. He's helped inspire people with disabilities in Anchorage and visited wounded warriors and their families at San Antonio Military Medical Center and Walter Reed. He's presented his "tail" before thousands of doctors at health conferences and to officials at the Pentagon.

More than anything, Tuesday has given Luis back his independence and potential.

Honorable Mention

  • Cranberry: Labrador Retriever owned by Janine A. Prindle of Enumclaw, WA
  • Hayward: All American owned by Lori Banks of Hammond, LA
  • Honey: German Shepherd owned by Michael Gaither of Chiefland, FL
  • Jack: Rhodesian Ridgeback owned by Kelly Larkin and Diane Jacobsen of Cottonwood, AZ
  • Sage: Bloodhound owned by Cindi Sims of Lotus, CA


Drago: Spinone Italiano owned by Lauren Friedman and Christopher Sweetwood of Milford, Connecticut

Drago, a "do-it-all" Spinone Italiano with more than 1,000 therapy visits to his credit, faced a challenge like no other in Newtown, Connecticut last December when his therapy skills were called upon after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Lauren and Drago headed to Newtown, a chaotic scene full of shell-shocked local residents. Drago spent nearly every day until January, including the holidays, at the Crisis Center set up at Reed Intermediate School, providing love and support to those who needed it. He accompanied kids and adults into counseling sessions, and spent time with children who were doing crafts and activities while their parents were busy with chaplains and psychologists.

When other Newtown-area schools re-opened December 18th, Drago returned with the children. He and Lauren still visit the high school, middle school and intermediate school, where Drago spends time in reading groups, counseling sessions, hanging out in the hallways and dropping into classrooms. He is always available for hugs and scratches, and is great at convincing a crying child to go for a walk until they feel better and are strong enough to head back to class. Drago will continue to visit schools in Newtown as long as he is needed.

Beyond his therapy work, Drago has excelled in the conformation ring, the field and the obedience ring. He is a regular visitor at local nursing homes, assisted living facilities, a special needs school and the West Haven VA Hospital. He has also completed more than 300 Tail Waggin' Tutor visits, where there is always a waiting list of kids ready to read just to him.

Honorable Mention

  • Banjo: Portuguese Water Dog owned by Chuck Ellman of Bedminster, NJ
  • Kermit: Newfoundland owned by Bonnie and Lenny Giacovelli of Jupiter, FL
  • LCC K9 Comfort: Golden Retrievers owned by Lutheran Church Charities of Addison, IL
  • Romeo: Chihuahua owned by Dale Heller of Lexington, SC
  • Tara Jane: English Springer Spaniel owned by Pauline R. Barrick of East Aurora, NY