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The 2019 winners of the AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) were announced September 23. This year’s five winners include a Rottweiler who comforted survivors of mass shootings across the country, an Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) Labrador Retriever, a Doberman Pinscher who has participated in 29 missing person searches, a Dalmatian who doubles as a fire safety mascot, and a Labrador Retriever who serves as as a service dog for a woman with Dysautonomia.

One award is given in each of the following categories: Uniformed Service K-9, Service, Therapy, Search and Rescue, and Exemplary Companion Dog.

“The extraordinary stories of the 2019 ACE Award winners illustrate how dogs touch our hearts and lives every day,” said Doug Ljungren, President of the AKC Humane Fund. “Each of these five dogs have changed the life of a person, and in some cases an entire community and deserve to be celebrated. The ACE Awards give us an opportunity to show our appreciation for all that dogs do in the service of humankind.”

Each ACE recipient will receive $1,000 to be awarded to a pet-related charity of their choice, a one-year pet insurance policy from AKC Pet Insurance, a one-year supply of Eukanuba dog food and an engraved sterling silver medallion, which will be presented at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, Florida held on Saturday and Sunday, December 14-15, 2019. The 2019 AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence are proudly sponsored by EUKANUBA™ Pet Food.

Check in during the months leading up to the AKC National Championship for an in-depth feature on each winners.

Meet all five of this year’s winners:

Uniformed Service K-9: “Summer,” a Labrador Retriever handled by Sergeant Micah Jones of Washington D.C.

“K-9 Summer” is a nine-year-old Labrador Retriever serving the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as an Explosive Detection Dog (EDD) with the Amtrak Police Department in Washington D.C. With her handler, Sergeant Micah Jones, Summer is responsible for the protection and safety of passengers and personnel onboard trains as well as at the stations and infrastructure. She conducts K9 sweeps for VIP’s, Dignitaries, special and national athletic competitions, provides mutual aid to surrounding police departments and much more.

In addition to the incredible work K9 Summer does with the Amtrak Police, she is also a retired Military Working Dog. While deployed to Afghanistan with the Marine Corp in March 2012, Summer put her life on the line to keep the troops safe and comfort warriors on the battlefield. She conducted routine patrols, swept and cleared routes for the troops, and was even involved in firefights with insurgents. Summer is credited with positively identifying countless weapons caches and improvised explosive devices. While on duty with the Amtrak Police, K9 Summer wears several ribbons, proudly displaying her time served with the United States Armed Force.

When K9 Summer is not busy protecting her community, she conducts several educational demonstrations for local schools, summer camps and for other Law Enforcement Agencies that are creating a canine program. K9 Summer and handler Sgt. Micah Jones have dedicated their lives to protecting their community.

Therapy Dog: “Gunther,” a Rottweiler owned by John Hunt of Blackwood, New Jersey

“Gunther,” officially known as Bang’s Aleutian Sky CD RE THDD CGCA CGCU, is a six-year-old Rottweiler, certified by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and owned by John Hunt. In 2016, John Hunt and Gunther deployed as a therapy dog team to Orlando, FL to provide comfort to the grieving victims and families of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

Since then, they have deployed to: Las Vegas, NV in the wake of the Mandalay Bay Hotel/Route 91 Harvest Festival-mass shooting, Sutherland Springs, TX after the First Baptist Church mass shooting, Parkland, FL following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, Pittsburgh, PA after the Tree of Life Synagogue-mass shooting, and most recently the incident at the municipal building in Virginia Beach, VA. During deployments, John and Gunther spend long days working with the victims and their families and spend their nights comforting the EMTs, Police, Firefighters, and on-site support crews.

When they are not busy traveling the country supporting victims of our nation’s tragedies, John and Gunther can be found working within the AtlantiCare health system and Regional Medical Center providing smiles and love to patients and their care-givers. They also provide local visits throughout NJ supporting celebrations of life at high-schools and colleges and giving educational presentations to a range of organizations on the deployment management of active shooter cases.

In December 2018, Gunther’s owner, John co-founded the non-profit group, Crisis Response Canines, to provide training and organization to build a nationwide network of highly-trained crisis response canines who would be ready to deploy for support and assistance when other mass tragedies occur. Gunther’s work as a therapy dog has helped victims across the nation, and the bond that John and Gunther share brings smiles to faces in the most difficult of times.

Service Dog: “Polly,” a Labrador Retriever owned by Rachel Husband of Sparks, Nevada

“Polly” is a five-year-old Labrador Retriever owned by Rachel Husband of Sparks, Nevada. Rachel has a rare health condition called Dysautonomia, a disorder of the autonomic nervous system which causes fainting, leaving her wheelchair-bound.

When Rachel got Polly as a 9-month-old puppy, she already knew how to stack for the Conformation ring, but she wasn’t quite tall enough to keep showing. Polly and Rachel have ventured across the dog sport world, competing in various AKC Sports including Rally, Obedience, Fast CAT, Barn Hunt, and some Hunt Test training, but her most important role is being Rachel’s service dog.

As a service dog, Polly picks up dropped objects, retrieves items, helps pull Rachel’s wheelchair and is even able to use a K-9 button to call 911 in an emergency. The duo has achieved so many things that Rachel never imagined she’d be able to accomplish before Polly. They’ve snowmobiled in Alaska, road-tripped from Virginia to California, and competed in Rally in 18 states so far. The pair is working to achieve their goal of competing in Rally in all 50 states. Polly enables Rachel to be able to work full-time and helped Rachel regain her independence. She has transformed Rachel’s life for the better

Search and Rescue Dog: “JoePete,” a Doberman Pinscher owned and handled by Cris Bean of Eaton Rapids, Michigan

“JoePete,” also known as “JP” is an eight-year-old Doberman Pinscher owned and handled by Cris Bean. Together they volunteer with the Michigan Search and Rescue.

Cris rescued JoePete in 2010 and he progressed rapidly through the human remains training program. However, just prior to achieving certification, JoePete received a very early diagnosis of Wobbler’s disease, a catchall term referring to several possible malformations of the cervical vertebrae that cause an unsteady (wobbly) gait and weakness in dogs and horses. Despite his diagnosis, JoePete achieved certification with Michigan Search and Rescue and went on to achieve certification with two national organizations as well. He has since participated in 29 missing person searches, helping to bring closure to many grieving families. He has also aided in local graveyard reconstruction projects by Historical Societies and landowners by helping to locate burial sites in forgotten cemeteries in and around the state of Michigan.

In addition to his search & rescue work, JoePete has participated in countless educational demonstrations with children, adults, and individuals with special needs. He earned his AKC Canine Good Citizen certification and has become a certified therapy dog through Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Despite JP’s battle with Wobblers, his strength, work ethic, determination, and loving spirit shine through every single day in his search & rescue work.

Exemplary Companion Dog: “Molly,” a Dalmatian owned by Dayna Hilton of Clarksville, Arkansas

Molly,” a seven-year-old Dalmatian owned by Dayna Hilton is more than just a family pet – she is a Fire Safety Dog, the mascot of the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation (KKFSF). KKFSF is a public charity dedicated to reducing fire-related deaths and injuries among children and their families. Since just nine weeks old, Molly has been working tirelessly to help educate children about fire safety.

As the KKFSF mascot, Molly helps make fire safety presentations and travels over 25,000 miles a year to appear at educational events across the United States. During the fire safety program, Molly demonstrates many of the tricks she has learned, including how to “test” a smoke alarm with her nose and how to crawl low under smoke. Molly also helps her owner and local Firefighter, Dayna by turning pages of a children’s fire safety book and raising her paw to help make children Jr. Firefighters.

For the children Molly can’t reach physically, she actively participates in the KKFSF’s popular fire safety Skype program, “Learning about Fire Safety is Fun.” She has Skyped almost 500 times with more than 17,000 children and 1,800 adults. In addition to serving as the official mascot for KKFSF, Molly is also the honorary fire dog for the Little Rock Fire Department.

Losing one child to fire is one too many, and Dayna and Molly hope to continue their mission to keep more children fire safe. Molly’s loyalty and dedication to her work and community are an inspiration to children and dog lovers everywhere.

Learn more about past ACE honorees.
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