New York, NY – The American Kennel Club announced today the winners of the seventh AKC Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE), the award designed to commemorate loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions to their community. The ACE awards are given annually to dogs in each of the following five categories: Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Therapy, Service and Exemplary Companion Dog.
“The difference these dogs have made in people’s lives is nothing less than extraordinary. Each nominee has its own heartfelt story that illustrates the significant role dogs play in making the world a brighter place,” said Ron Rella, AKC Director of Project Administration and member of the judging panel. “We are proud to honor these exceptional canines and their owners with the 2006 American Kennel Club Award for Canine Excellence.”
This year’s five recipients will be honored individually at local ceremonies. They will each receive a cash award of $1,000 and an engraved sterling-silver collar medallion at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Long Beach, California. The annual dog show will be televised live on Animal Planet on December 2-3, 2006.
Law Enforcement Dog: “Rex” from Colorado Springs, Colo.
Rex is a German Shepherd Dog who served in the United States Air Force with his partner, Tech Sgt Jamie Dana, as a bomb detection dog. In 2005, Jamie volunteered herself and Rex for duty in Iraq. The pair headed fearlessly into the war zone and as months passed, Rex became a valuable military asset. One day, Rex and Jamie’s humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. Jamie suffered life threatening injuries and was rushed to a field hospital. Rex had been thrown clear from the blast, only suffering minor injuries. Soon after, it was discovered that Rex had been the specific target of a remote-control-detonated bomb planted by insurgents. He had been singled out due to his outstanding ability to detect their bombs. Rex was finally brought to the hospital to support Jamie during her recovery and she asked to adopt him. She was denied, because Rex still had several years of service in the military. As a result of this devastating news, Jamie’s family and friends went to Congress and successfully urged them to pass legislation that would allow Jamie to take Rex home. The passage of Sec. 599 of Public Law 109-163 allows for exceptions to be granted for handlers who wish to adopt their dogs.
Search and Rescue Dog: “Morgan” from Lebanon, N.J.
Morgan, an English Springer Spaniel, is a certified wilderness air scent, water and cadaver search dog. She and her owner, Katrene Johnson, have participated in over 50 searches nationwide. In September 2001, Morgan and Katrene were called upon to search for DNA material in the debris from Ground Zero. Morgan faithfully searched the quarter square mile of debris that had been deposited at Staten Island’s Fresh Kills Land Fill. Her contribution helped to give numerous families the answers they sought about their loved ones. In 2005, Morgan was instrumental in the relief efforts of another catastrophe. Hancock County, Mississippi called upon search and rescue teams to help track down their missing citizens after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. Morgan and a few other teams were responsible for clearing neighborhoods before residents returned to survey the damage to their homes. With Morgan’s help, Hancock County completed its mission of locating all missing citizens.
Therapy Dog: “Abby” from La Porte, Ind.
Abby, a long-coated Chihuahua, has logged countless volunteer hours with the La Porte Regional Healthcare System. The staff at La Porte Hospital has welcomed Abby and her owner, Katherine Albrecht, for years. She is praised by staff for the difference they see in patients after her visits. Abby knows just how to respond to each person and has a calming effect on patients who may be experiencing pain, loneliness or depression. Abby and Katherine have had such an impact that they received a special request to visit a young girl in Indianapolis who was badly injured in a house fire. Upon their return, Abby was asked to visit the young girl’s elementary school to help them cope with the loss of her two siblings. Abby participates in many community programs and is a great ambassador for pet therapy. She volunteers for LIL’ FISH, a program that teaches health and safety to children. Each year she joins cancer fundraisers and the Whirlpool Foundation even offers an annual scholarship in Abby’s name for her work in hospice.
Service Dog: “Aspen” from Enid, Okla.
Aspen is an 11-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever who has been Katherine Huggins’ constant companion since puppy hood. At six months of age, Aspen revealed a remarkable ability. She could predict Katherine’s seizures. Katherine worked with several prominent behaviorists to train Aspen as her service dog. As a Public Fire & Life Safety Educator, Katherine teaches safety and rescue procedures to rescuers and fire departments. With Aspen’s help, she demonstrates rope and water rescues and supervises students. In 2000 Aspen won the Delta Society Beyond Limits Award as Central Region Service Dog of the Year. Aspen’s achievements have inspired Katherine to start a service dog training center to train and match service dogs with disabled children ages 10-18. With age, Aspen has lost her vision. Just as Aspen adjusted to her owner’s disabilities, Katherine now works to ensure Aspen maintains the same quality of life. Their bond of trust is infallible and gets them through each and every day.
Exemplary Companion Dog: “K.D.” from Carlisle, Pa.
K.D., a six-year-old Golden Retriever, and her owner, Ron Heller, have excelled in a sport that is said to require agility and speed, not only in the dog, but in the handler. Ron, affected by cerebral palsy and limited mobility, has proved that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Together, he and K.D. have earned Master Excellent and Agility Excellent Jumper titles. Watching Ron direct K.D. through a complicated course, it appears to bystanders as if K.D. is actually reading Ron’s mind. Ron has trained K.D. to respond to cues from as far as the opposite side of the ring. His success with K.D. has inspired Ron to become an agility instructor, specializing in teaching distance handling skills. Outside the agility ring, K.D. transforms into a gentle, quiet dog that walks politely on lead. K.D. is a registered therapy dog with Therapy Dog, Inc. Ron and K.D. visit nursing homes, schools and give training demonstrations at community events.