The 2013 ACE Award Recipients

The AKC® Humane Fund celebrates the loyalty, devotion and strength dogs share with us by announcing the winners of the 14th annual AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence(ACE), which commemorate five 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.

“The dogs honored by the ACE have contributed immeasurably to the lives of individuals and communities across the country, and with so many great stories, it’s difficult to choose just one recipient in each category,” said AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson. “We’re proud to award these five deserving dogs with AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence.”

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. This year’s ACE winners include:

Exemplary Companion Dog: “Bart,” a Vizsla owned by Darcy Hodges of Brooks, Georgia

Bart was only three years old when he developed a limp during hunt and field season. After x-rays revealed 80 per cent of his scapula eaten away by cancer, Bart had his entire front left leg removed. 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, earning that title ten months later. Bart and Darcy were also invited to visit with soldiers from the Wounded Warrior program. 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.

Therapy Dog: “Drago,” a Spinone Italiano owned by Lauren Friedman and Chris 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 immediately headed to Newtown, a chaotic scene full of shell-shocked local residents. They spent nearly every day until January at the Crisis Center that was set up at Reed Intermediate School, providing love and support to those who needed it. Drago 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. Lauren and Drago still visit area schools today.

Service Dog: “Tuesday,” a Golden Retriever owned by Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván of New York, New York

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). From retrieving things Luis needs so that he 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 and Luis also 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.

Law Enforcement Dog: K9 “Zeke,” a Belgian Malinois handled by Cpl. Tyron E. Meik of the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Police Department

Earlier this year, Cpl. Meik and Zeke were called 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. 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 to an emergency veterinary hospital to undergo surgery. Zeke has since made a full recovery and has returned to active duty.

Search and Rescue Dog: “Jesse,” a German Shepherd Dog owned and handled by Susan Condreras of Riverhead, New York

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. After a recent injury and difficult rehab period, Jesse made it back to work looking for the missing. On her first search back, she found a hunter alive in the swamps of New Jersey.